Mixing Alcohol and Prescription Drugs is Dangerous

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The recent death of Whitney Houston has brought the danger of mixing prescription medications with alcohol back to the fore. While it will be some time yet before official toxicology reports determine the cause of the star’s death, the presence of alcohol and Xanax in her hotel room has led to early conclusions that the combination of these substances is responsible for her demise.

If those conclusions prove true, Ms. Houston will be another name on a growing list of Hollywood favorites whose life ended when the two substances were taken together. Sadly, every prescription medication comes with a full warning list of behaviors and substances to be avoided while taking the drug and avoiding alcohol is listed on the vast majority of those warnings.

Double Trouble

A 2007 study reported that just fewer than 30,000 Americans died due to accidental prescription drug overdose making prescriptions a leading cause of death which, in some states, has overtaken the death toll due to traffic accidents. A 2008 study conducted through the University of Rhode Island and Brown University found that well over half (60 percent) of those taking a prescription which warns against alcohol consumption go ahead and drink regardless. Some of those who do so will drink three or even more consecutive alcoholic beverages while taking their medication. And whatever the prescription, mixing it with alcohol turns it into a poisonous cocktail.

Double Duty

When a person taking an anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, psychotic, or sleep aid prescription also drinks alcohol then the sedative effect of the drugs are heightened. Xanax, for example, clears the body though the work of a special liver enzyme. This enzyme is also needed to rid the body of alcohol. When the two are taken together it slows the body’s ability to rid itself of these substances. This means that substances remain in the system longer and at higher levels which makes it far more likely that the person will either be involved in an accident or will unintentionally overdose.

Double Danger

In a similar way, the use of sedatives which suppress lung function and even cardiac function becomes more dangerous when alcohol which also suppresses these functions is added. In addition, sedatives impair a person’s alertness making them more apt to accidentally overdose. The same is true for Xanax which can impede memory function leaving people vulnerable to forgetting that they already took a pill.

Mixing prescription medications with alcohol is a gamble that is not worth taking. Just how to convince the population that the warnings to avoid mixing the two are worth heeding is an important question that must be answered before more precious lives are cut needlessly short.

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