Mixing Vicodin with Alcohol

Mixing Vicodin and alcohol can intensify a Vicodin high. But it can also cause your heart and breathing rates to slow down. Enough to lose consciousness, overdose, or die. More here on harms and warnings for mixing Vicodin with alcohol.

minute read
Reviewed by: Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

ARTICLE SUMMARY: Mixing an opioid painkiller such as Vicodin with alcohol can result in overdose or death. Read more on the possible dangers of mixing Vicodin with alcohol here.


Why Mix the Two?

Are you considering mixing Vicodin with alcohol?

You need to evaluate the risks and dangers of mixing Vicodin with alcohol first. Used alone, alcohol and Vicodin can do harm to your health. But the combo of these two is a deadly cocktail. The amount and dosage of Vicodin that is safe varies by person, but most prescription painkillers go funky when mixed with alcohol. Why?

On the one hand, Vicodin is a prescription opioid containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen. It can elicit feelings of pain relief, euphoria, and relaxation via depressant effects on the nervous system. On the other hand, alcohol is also a depressant. It slows down brain activity, causing relaxation feelings. Because both substances produce similar effects, when they are combined together… they cause drug synergy.

Drug Synergism =  An interaction between two or more drugs that causes the total effect of the drugs to be greater than the sum of the individual effects of each drug.

When you drink and take Vicodin, the negative effects of this combo can build upon each other, bringing you closer to overdose or even death. So, why do people do it…especially if the effects can be more intensified and can lead to death?

There are two main reasons:

1. Ignorance. Most often people do not read prescription labels or do not follow doctor’s instruction. So, they may accidentally start mixing these two substances not knowing the consequences.

2. To get high. People who want to intensify a high drink on Vicodin.

Effects on the Brain

Taken together, Vicodin and alcohol can cause serious imbalance in the brain. The FDA Vicodin label says:

Alcohol and other CNS depressants may produce an additive CNS depression, when taken with this combination product, and should be avoided.

CNS depression is physiological depression of the central nervous system that can result in:

  • Decreased rate of breathing
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma or even death

Alcohol enhances GABA neurotransmitters in the brain causing sedation, reducing stress and anxiety. In fact, it slows down the brain activity. Vicodin also acts like a depressant. Moreover, both substances increase dopamine levels in the brain.

However, getting high on Vicodin becomes more intense when you mix the two. Vicodin reacts chemically with alcohol, and has an additive depressant effect in the body and brain when combined. That means that the effects of the alcohol and Vicodin are both stronger and more dangerous when taken together. In other words, this combo is a quick way to accidentally overdose and die from Vicodin.


Vicodin is a narcotic painkiller that contains the opioid hydrocodone, which can cause feelings of euphoria when taken in large amounts. Alcohol can intensify the euphoric effect of Vicodin, which many people find pleasant. In self-reports, people who drink while taking Vicodin have reported some of these effects:

  • drowsiness
  • euphoria
  • relaxation
  • numbness

And more people may be combining drugs that you think. For example, the National Institute On Drug Abuse reported that 7 out of 10 nonmedical teen users reported combining prescription opioids with at least one other substance (over 50% alcohol) in the past year.

Side Effects

Drinking and taking Vicodin can cause serious side effects that include:

  • abnormal behavior
  • coordination problems
  • concentration problems
  • changes in blood pressure
  • dizziness
  • dehydration
  • irregular heart rate
  • passing out
  • nausea and vomiting

Mixing alcohol with Vicodin can cause depressed breathing.

Another major effect of mixing Vicodin with alcohol is ” liver toxicity”. The acetaminophen in vicodin is directly metabolized in the liver and so is the alcohol. There are plenty of people who have abused Vicodin for a long time who coming to the hospital with cases of liver toxicity and hepatocellular carcinoma. This drug cocktail can cause death. Even if a person uses Vicodin as prescribed, and drinks a glass of alcohol, the substances can enhance each other effects leading to intoxication and accidental overdose.


Taking alcohol and Vicodin together can cause dangerous side effects. The dangers of mixing are mainly due to the addictive effects of hydrocodone and alcohol. So, the nervous system effects of Vicodin are intensified by the addition of alcohol (a depressant) in the bloodstream. Some potentially dangerous effects of mixing Vicodin with alcohol include:

  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • coma
  • loss of consciousness
  • shallow breathing
  • impaired coordination
  • overdose
  • slowed heart rate

However, Vicodin isn’t the only drug that becomes more dangerous when mixed. The effects of the alcohol are intensified, as well. Your alcohol tolerance will be lower than normal, which can lead to drinking too much and potential alcohol poisoning. Plus, you can experience a greater intoxication from alcohol when mixing it with narcotics, which can be potentially deadly.

Further, alcohol also makes you sleepy, drowsy, and lightheaded as it takes a sedative effect on the body. Drinking and using Vicodin can cause trouble concentrating, difficulty with coordination, slowed reaction time, and other issues which can cause accidents.


The 2011 DAWN Report on National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits reported that in 2011, there were around 25,000 Emergency Department visits that involved combination of hydrocodone products (including Vicodin) with alcohol.

Your risk of overdose on Vicodin goes up when you take drugs that contain hydrocodone with alcohol. The effects of both drugs are much stronger together than they are on their own. The practice of mixing alcohol and Vicodin can be dangerous even if you take them a few hours apart, because some of the Vicodin will still be in your system and could cause a bad reaction.


It’s very common for people to drink while taking narcotics like Vicodin, despite the dangers. But even normal doses of Vicodin combined with alcohol can cause breathing trouble or serious health issues. And if you abuse painkiller or take more than a normal prescription dose, you might overdose and die. The only way to avoid these risks is to decide not to drink at all while on Vicodin.

According to the 2016 CDC National Vital Statistics Report on drugs most frequently involved in OD deaths, 12-22% of all overdoses on opioids involved mixture with alcohol. Moreover, it is estimated that more than 45 people died from overdose that involved prescription opoid every day in 2016.

Safety Guidelines

It is not safe to take any painkiller when you are drinking alcohol. In fact, doctors do not recommend drinking while taking Vicodin…even when use is at different times of the day. This combination just enhances the most dangerous effects of both drugs.

If you’re not sure how far apart to space a prescribed dose of Vicodin and social drinking, you should ask your doctor for more information on taking painkillers and drinking safely. But the FDA warns against mixing the two at all.

Signs You Need Help

Vicodin is an addictive drug and you risk addiction when you are not using it as prescribed by a doctor. Some of the most common signs of addiction include:

  • Taking more pills than you should.
  • Taking more pills than prescribed, so you run out before the refill date.
  • Taking pills to get high, and/or to escape from your emotions.
  • Combining pills with other substances such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, or other opioids.

Moreover, there are four check points for any addiction, known as the 4Cs:

  • CRAVING for the drug.
  • COMPULSION to use the drug.
  • Losing CONTROL of amount and frequency of drug use.
  • Use the drug despite the negative CONSEQUENCES.

How can you know for sure if you have a drug problem? Seek a diagnosis. Addiction experts are those who can diagnose addiction. So, if you are not sure whether you have a problem or not, seek help from a counselor, rehab clinic, psychotherapist, or your physician.

Got Questions?

Do you still have questions? Please leave your questions here. Your experiences are also welcome. We try our best to answer all questions personally, and promptly. And if we don’t know the answer, we will refer you to someone who can help.

Reference Sources: Facing Addiction: The Surgeon General’s Report
NIAAA pamphlet: Harmful Interactions, Mixing Alcohol with Medicines
DEA: Hydrocodone
Medline Plus: Hydrocodone
NCBI: Alcohol and opioids: possible interactions of clinical importance
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
Medical Reviewers
Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS serves as the Chief Medical Officer of the Texas Healt...

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.


Leave a Reply to curiousjo Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I have read and agree to the conditions outlined in the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

  1. I have an old college friend who is not 45 years old and pops vicodon like candy, She also drinks a lot, takes antidepressant, eats like crap, doesn’t exercise, is diabetic and is just belligerent and obnoxious. I don’t know the details of when she started and how much she takes but it seems she is on vicodin all the time…even she is driving! I can only stand to be around her once a year or two years. I saw her fall flat on an outdoor fireplace at a restaurant and she was too slow to react. Luckily the security guard pulled her out so she didn’t go up in flames as she was wearing a nylon jacket…sad part is that she is a single mom, unhappy, always complains about her narcissistic ex husband, on disability and a complete hoepless loser who prefers to hang out with 21 year old son who don’t judge her and party and speak at the same level. Interestingly enough, she met a couple of 21 year old who got her drunk and robbed her when she wasn’t looking. She had. I idea because she was so wasted. I’m really done with being her friend – and only friend- ad I can’t stand being around her for more than a minute but feel like a bad person for not doing anything to help this sad soul who truly is a know it all. What can I do? I have her Dr.’s number and have thought about talking to him about lowering her prescription but not sure that’s ethical. If she dues, here daughter with autism will go to her abusive and narcissistic ex-husband.

  2. I am concerned about my use of both beer and Vicodins, I take two pills every five hours they are tens. And I drink a six pack everyday they are 16oz! I know it’s not right please tell me what I’m doing to my body and self my Doctor gives me 224 pills a month! I need them for pain! But beer helps me energize, I have been on this regiment since 2005! And just turned 66 I’m never hungry, I go to the gym everyday and use the thread mill I am feeling great but I’m worried!

  3. My husband is 55 years old & has been mixing alcohol with Vicodin for at least 2 years. He gets drunk fast & gets angry very easily. Does the Vicodin make him irritable?

  4. Hi there. I took half a 5/325 vicodin 5 hours ago. Is it safe to have a couple of drinks. Last time I took a half a vicodin was two days ago and 6 days before that one.

  5. Can i drink one 16oz beer six hours after taking an oxycodone acetaminophen safely. Just had surgery a few days ago and would like to drink one light beer with my pizza tonight. I have no kidney or liver issues.

  6. I take the prescribed dose of Vicodin, one tablet every 4-6 hours, with a maximum number of four pills in a 24 hour period, never more. Is it dangerous to have one or two beers once in a while, maybe once a month? Also could there be long term damage? Thanks.

  7. I’m in substance abuse treatment for alcohol abuse . But recently with in the last few weeks I have started taking vicodin it’s like the lowest dose you can get, but I miss the effects of drinking… I’ve only done one or the other. But now despite knowing the consequences and fatality it can cause I really want to experiment with both and I don’t know how to talk to my counselor about it. I realize this is an old blog but I’m hoping it’s still active.

  8. Why do I feel the need to take my Vicodin with alcohol? I crave a certain high now and I’m up to ten to twelve 5/500 per day for my shoulder pain but I don’t like the way they make me feel without drinking alcohol. My tolerance for both are concerning me. I’m scared to stop because of my pain but I need so much that I’m afraid of overdosing. Like tonight for example; I took twelve and drank 15 or so beers. This is normal for me. I feel relaxed, good but not drunk drunk. Don’t know where to go from here.

  9. I took a valium and an immodium before going to sleep I had t wines earlier and now my throught hurts not anything i WOULD DO AS I DON’T DRINK

  10. My wife has lymphoma and a degenerative joint disease which has her both in pain daily and now permanently on disability. Through all this she has also from her now 4-5 years of oxycodone script that doesn’t work anymore but as people kniw is only used to avoid withdrawal symptoms at this point so over the last 2 yrs has went from a few glass of wine to help to now this closeted raging alcoholic. I can say most nights are mild due to her lack of havib g enough to drink but the minute she’s able to buy a 1/5 of whiskey she will down no less that 1/2 to 3/4 of the bottle over a 4-6 hour period and becoming berating, mean unable to get off the locked bathroom floor and bouts of extreme dpression yelling or mumbling someone just kill me. Sometimes the clothes come off and have found her squatting on the back porch urinating in the dark. All thus time she is as a possessed person and fear she will accidentally overdose. She rarely has a drink over the 23 years we were together until about 2 yrs ago now she has become a sliding train headed for a wall and will not be told to slow either addiction

  11. My Bf got off of a crack addiction 4 years ago, but takes vicodin and drinks a lot of beer. He buys off the streets. He says he only takes 1 or 2 a day. I saw him pass out a couple times on our vacation last year. This addiction is hurting our relationship, he thinks I’m his problem, the wrong person for him, I can’t talk to him, his mood changes a lot.

  12. How long should you wait to take Vicodin after you drink? And if you’ve only had a couple drinks is it still dangerous to take Vicodin let’s say after you arrive home from the bar?

  13. my mother used to take Vicodin and drink vodka on a daily basis for several years. it affected our relationship. it was hard to be around her when she was like that. last year she died from effects of colon cancer. the cancer had spread to her liver and it abscessed , ultimately it killed her. I knew about her addiction I couldn’t do anything about it. it changed her and she became belligerent at times.

  14. What if you crush a 350mg pill and snort 2-3 lines and then drink a small amount of alcohol like a tall can of beer or a 4 Loko?

  15. Hello Judy. Most overdose complications occur during and are resolved acute intoxication, unless breathing/heart rate slowed down enough to cause brain damage. I’d suggest a full medical exam if you suspect long term damage caused by mixing Vicodin and alcohol.

  16. What would the complications be if someone overdosed on vicoden while they were drunk? A friend of mine accidently overdosed on vicoden when she was intoxicated.

  17. My friend is in the hospital fighting for his life because he took vicodin and had three drinks of alcohol. It is true that only a few drinks with a vicodin can be deadly. They put those warnings on a prescription bottle for a reason.

  18. Hi Samantha. Any time you make a mistake like this, you can call the Poison Control Center for an objective, medical opinion at 1-800-222-1222.

  19. I took 1 vicodin 1000 and drank a third of a mikes hard which is 5%…I’m feeling very nauseous and my throat is starting to itch. I’ve taken vicodin and drank way more before but they were watsons…and not name brand like the kind I took tonight. Is there that much of a difference between name brand and generic. And could I be having a slight allergic reaction? And how bad is all of this for my stomach lining and or kidneys? I know I deserve to feel this way for doing something so careless. But I’m starting to get concerned and can’t ask my doctor because I take it for actual pain…and don’t want to loose my script.

  20. Hello Matt. Liver damage usually occurs over time. But if you want to be sure that you are medically fit…you can request some blood tests from your family doctor or general physician. Liver enzyme tests, formerly called liver function tests (LFTs), are a group of blood tests that detect inflammation and damage to the liver. Best of luck to you.

  21. Last night I took one vicodin and had 17 shots of liquor. I threw up a lot this morning and am a little worried about my liver. Can this one night of drinking with vicodin destroy my liver?

  22. Hello Shorty. Still super scary. Call 1-800-662-HELP to talk with someone about finding help for untreated alcoholism. You can make the choice to live without alcohol. But mixing alcohol with hydrocodone can provoke overdose.

  23. I’m laid up after surgery — only bathroom and back, on crutches. I’ve had a drinking problem for a while, and keep booze hidden in the bedroom. I have hydrocodone with IBUPROFEN, not acetaminophen, and have been taking it sparingly, but am also drinking a fair amount (I’m alone most of the day). After reading several links about hydrocodone/Vicodin, I’m scared about side effects — are they less dire if no acetaminophen, or still super scary? I haven’t noticed any heartbeat or breathing problems over the past three days.

  24. My dad has been mixing Vicodin with alcohol for over 20 years. He had a tolerance for both and knew what he was doing. Most recently, I warned him about the dangers, but you know people, they always know better. A couple days ago, he went to sleep and did not wake up. He will be cremated within the next couple of days. While he had built a tolerance, the compound effects of mixing these two substances can be very lethal. Like a friend told me once when I was tightening a hose clamp, “tight is tight, and broke is broke.” Once you over tighten a hose clamp, is makes a pop sound and the thing is ruined. Once you OD on Vicodin and alcohol, it is likely that someone will be paying for your funeral.

  25. Hi Dawn. Call the Poison Control Center to report your symptoms. It’s possible that there is a drug combination causing these issues. Either way, you need immediate medical advice.


  26. I am on an anti-depressant and was prescribed Vicodin because I have the shingles. I didn’t take the Vicodin all day and I had about a glass and a half of wine around 9pm. I took one pill when I got home around 2am. By then, the alcohol had worn off, however, I noticed my heart felt like it was coming out of my chest and that I needed to take deep breaths. It felt like the beating was more noticeable and I cant tell if my heart rate has slowed or quickened. I am concerned. Should I be?

  27. Hi Ronni. Well, if he continues, your relative may experience any of the dangers of mixing Vicodin with alcohol listed above. He can become unconscious, experience shallow breathing and slowed heart rate, and/or overdose. Prevention of injury, however, comes with a full objective assessment of risk. If your relative likes the euphoric effect, it may be difficult to convince him to stop combining the two…but there is good reason!

  28. I found out a relative takes vicodin for a sport injury and drinks beer or vodka with it (several drinks at night). I was told because it hasn’t caused a problem, he thinks it is okay to do this. I fear for his safety and would like a comment on what could happen to him if he continues.

  29. like i mentioned being consuming..120milligrams or more on a daily basis…i do quit using it…not pleasant…i am in bed 90 percent of the time….13 years of daily use…you know…i don’t have a problem with it..it’s just what’s outhere…it can kill you..stuff like that…i find it to be a positve…in my life…just a little frightened…i guess..take care…franktheman…

  30. I was on Vicodin for pain after surgery. I was also on about 4 different types of psych meds (SSRI’s, antidepressants, etc). It was Halloween and I went to a party with some friends, and drank way too much liquor. Probably about 8-10 drinks. I was distracted and having fun and didn’t even think about the fact I was on meds that could interact badly with alcohol. I remember feeling drunk for about ten minutes, and then I have flashes of what happened after that. For the most part, though, I was unconscious for the next several hours. I woke up in the hospital the next day. My friends told me that I had had what seemed like a panic attack and I had been screaming for everyone to kill me and then I stopped breathing and they called 911. Apparently I could have died. Anyway, I ended up in the psych ward because I had asked to be killed. I didn’t even remember saying that! Consciously I didn’t even feel suicidal. Anyway…point is, don’t mix alcohol with Vicodin or psych meds. You end up unconscious, in the hospital, and possibly dead. I know I’m very lucky to still be alive today.

  31. i for got to mention…every morning i get up…I start pucking…my left leg…shaking…my left hand extremely shaking…i found an immediate cure for that…and that is to open three beer cans…and drink them fast…then the shake is gone…frank

  32. Hello Frank. Thanks for your message. I’d suggest that you check in with your prescribing doctor for advice about drinking while taking hydrocodone. As it seems that you have a regular and predictable dosing regimen, I wonder if it’s possible that you drink at all. It might be best to avoid alcohol 100%. But check in with your MD, or ask a pharmacist for a second opinion.

  33. i consume an average of 12 10-325 lortab daily…been doing it for 13 years….i have a screwed up leg…i fell into a grain auger when i was young…lortab made me live a somewhat normal life…my stomach is fine…i do get withdrawals once ina while when i ran out…and drink beer sometimes…am i ok…

I am ready to call
i Who Answers?