Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Danger of Alcohol and Drugs: A Toxic Brew

Most people are aware of the deadly combination of drinking and taking prescription medication through the numbers of celebrity fatalities that has hit the media. But, as a nurse having worked in the ED and in Long Term Care, it is important to fully inform the public of the serious consequences that can occur, even if not resulting in a fatality. Many times, I think that people either forget, or think that it just can't happen to them. This is very far from the truth.

Alcohol and Drugs: Don't mix!
The combination of drugs and alcohol can make the medication less or more powerful causing breathing problems and changes in the level of consciousness. For example, sleeping pills and benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Ativan) can be a lethal brew when taken together. It can't be stressed enough to read the labels or ask the pharmacist, or MD if you have a question.

Many times, through impaired judgment, in the case of an individual who has been drinking alcohol, the medication may seem to be being ineffective; a person might take more of the medication resulting in an overdose. And, it doesn't take much to cause an overdose, particularly if someone has been drinking. It can't be stressed enough that it is not safe to double up on a dose, even when alcohol isn't involved!

Alcohol can have harmful interactions with drugs whether they be over the counter, prescription or even combined with herbal remedies. Some of the interaction problems that occur are: nausea, vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, changes in blood pressure, behavioral changes, letheragy, drowsinss and even coma.

Organ Failure

Organ and system damage can occur as well. The liver, the body's main organ of detoxification, can be destroyed, along with the kidney. The kidneys helps rid the body of dangerous substances through the urine. Now, imagine overburdening that organ with alcohol, in addition to medications and other toxins.

The heart also can be damaged as a result of the powerful interaction between drugs and alcohol; dangerous and lethal arrhythmias, or heart rhythm abnormatlities can occur. These can be deadly or possibly result in permanent damage.

Dangers of Drug mixing with the elderly

Studies have proven that medications in the elderly can be more lethal due to the slower excretion from the body. This is particularly dangerous since many of them are taking multiple prescriptions. So, it is important to be careful regarding the timing of drinking and taking meds in this age group. (Usually, most medications that younger people take can be adjusted downward in the elderly due to this fact).

Also, meds such as benzodiazepines, which were just mentioned, tend to make the population of people more prone to dizziness, weakness and falls. And. consider that most of these people are already taking high blood medications, which often causes alone can cause dizziness. Now, adding alcohol to this is lethal. So, please, please look in and monitor the meds that your elderly loved ones are taking. It can save their lives.

In summary
Ask your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional about the safety of taking multiple medications and if alcohol with a medication. Usually, the answer is no. As a reminder though, always ask if there is a question of safety.

Source: http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/alcohol-interactions-with-medications "Alcohol and drug Interactions"

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