The Dangers of Using Norco and Alcohol – Both alcohol and prescription opioids such as Norco (hydrocodone) are frequently abused in the U.S. The risks of abusing either substance by themselves are significant, but when the substances are combined, these risks are increased even further.
According to a survey by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA, 2015), more than 85% of people age 18 and older reported consuming alcohol at some point in their lives. In fact, excessive drinking is a serious problem in the United States, as the same survey found that more than 25% of people also reported past-month binge drinking.
Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are characterized by problematic alcohol use and manifest as a result of chronic consumption. An estimated 88,000 people in the U.S. die each year from causes related to alcohol, making it the fourth-highest preventable cause of death in the country.
What Is Norco (Hydrocodone)?
Norco is a prescription painkiller that includes hydrocodone, an opioid, and the over-the-counter pain reliever acetaminophen (Tylenol). Opioids block some of the brain’s nerve receptors and are frequently prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Acetaminophen’s exact mechanism of action is not known, but experts believe it may reduce the production of prostaglandins, chemicals in the brain that cause inflammation and swelling.
Common side effects of hydrocodone include sedation, dizziness, nausea, and constipation. There is also the potential for additional serious side effects to occur, including the following:
- Breathing problems
- Decreased heart rate
- Abdominal pain
- Depression and mood swings
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) states that hydrocodone is the most often prescribed opioid in the U.S. And, unfortunately, it’s potential to induce euphoric feelings and sedation make it attractive to would-be recreational users.
With the extended use of Norco, a physical dependence can develop, hallmarked by withdrawal symptoms when the person discontinues using the medication. As a person’s tolerance to the drug builds, increasing amounts are needed to achieve the same effects. At this point, a person may then start to increase the dosage or change the method of administration (e.g., crushing pills and snorting the residual powder) and initiate an escalating pattern of abuse that can rapidly lead to addiction.
How Using Norco and Alcohol Affects the Liver
Combining Norco and alcohol can be risky for a number of reasons. First, as with any drug containing acetaminophen, consuming alcohol in combination with it can result in severe liver damage. In fact, Norco is packaged with warning labels regarding its acetaminophen content.
If alcohol and acetaminophen are combined, this can result in alcohol-acetaminophen syndrome (AAS). AAS is hallmarked by increased levels of transaminase, a liver protein that helps with metabolism. This effect is a warning sign that the liver is working overtime to break down both the acetaminophen and the alcohol, which can cause severe liver damage or failure.
AAS may occur because alcohol is metabolized by the liver first, meaning that the toxic materials in acetaminophen are neglected. It has been believed that this form of hepatotoxicity could be the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States.
Other Dangers of Combining Norco and Alcohol
Unfortunately, although acetaminophen presents significant dangers when used in conjunction with alcohol, the pleasurable effects of hydrocodone often encourage polydrug use. What’s more, is that alcohol is a popular choice as a secondary substance.
Concurrent use can cause the following symptoms:
- Poor judgment
- Impaired motor skills
- Respiratory problems
- Excessive sedation
- Coma and death
Moreover, drinking alcohol while taking any drug containing hydrocodone can result in life-threatening effects. Alcohol amplifies and accelerates the release of hydrocodone into the system, which can lead to perilously high levels of the drug in the body. Alcohol consumption also increases the drug’s absorption.
While people often deliberately combine hydrocodone and alcohol, it can also happen unintentionally. Those using Norco should confirm the alcohol content of anything they consume. For example, something as seemingly innocuous as over-the-counter cough syrup may contain alcohol, and even a standard dosage can result in a significant reaction when used with hydrocodone.
Finally, operating a motor vehicle or other machinery can be dangerous after consuming either Norco or alcohol, but doing so after using a combination of both can be especially hazardous. Mixing the two substances can result in impaired judgment and making the decision to get behind the wheel. In addition, impairment of motor skills can make it very difficult, if not impossible, for a person to safely operate a motor vehicle once he or she is on the road.
Treatment for Norco and Alcohol Addiction
Addiction to either Norco or alcohol alone can have devastating effects, but combining the two substances compounds these effects and makes their use even more dangerous and potentially life-threatening. People who are abusing Norco and alcohol are urged to seek treatment at Recovery in Tune where we offer comprehensive, evidence-based services, such as psychotherapy, counseling, and group support.
We can help you restore balance and wellness to your life, free from drugs and alcohol indefinitely. Contact us today to find out how!