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Combining Demerol & Alcohol: What Are the Dangers?

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Sep 14, 2023 • 9 cited sources

Mixing Demerol, sold generically as meperidine, and alcohol is incredibly dangerous. Both substances are central nervous system depressants, and their interaction can have a devastating impact on the brain and the body.[1] 

Combining alcohol and an opioid like Demerol can intensify the effects of both substances, leading to severe respiratory depression, impaired motor function and even overdose. The risks include extreme sedation, respiratory distress and loss of consciousness. 

Furthermore, cognitive impairment, coordination problems and increased susceptibility to accidents are common when Demerol is combined with alcohol. 

Treatment for an opioid use disorder (OUD) related to Demerol misuse and an alcohol use disorder (AUD) usually involves Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT). Medications like Suboxone, combined with therapy and counseling, help to manage opioid use disorder and support long-term recovery while helping people in crisis to find coping mechanisms that do not involve drinking or drug use. 

What Are the Effects of Demerol & Alcohol Combined?

Demerol and alcohol can both be detrimental to your body and mind on their own. Independently, they can induce excessive drowsiness, trouble breathing, reduced coordination, confusion, stomach issues and poor decision-making abilities.[2]

When taken together, these effects increase exponentially. Rather than a straightforward additive effect, combining Demerol and alcohol can multiply the effects experienced when either is taken alone. This can trigger a dangerously depressed respiratory state that can lead to cardiac problems and deadly overdose.

It is crucial to note that the effects of Demerol and alcohol will vary depending on unique factors, such as doses, tolerance and overall health. Higher or more frequent doses, lower or fluctuating tolerance and poor health can all contribute to higher risks of overdose.

Regardless of the specifics of these factors, combined use of Demerol and alcohol is never recommended.

Can You Mix Demerol & Alcohol?

Mixing Demerol and alcohol is highly discouraged due to the potential dangers and risks involved. It can have severe consequences on the body and overall well-being.

Demerol and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants, which means they can decrease brain activity and slow your thinking.[3] When these medications are combined, their sedative effects are amplified, resulting in excessive sleepiness, impaired coordination and decreased cognitive performance, all of which can increase the chances of accident or becoming a victim of a violent crime.

Mixing Demerol and alcohol can also increase the risk of respiratory depression, which can lead to breathing difficulties and an insufficient supply of oxygen which can lead to seizures, brain damage, coma and/or overdose.[4]

What Are the Risks & Dangers Associated With Mixing Demerol & Alcohol?

When it comes to mixing Demerol and alcohol, there is a significant risk of severe consequences to physical health, mental well-being and overall safety, including these:

  • Impaired coordination: Both Demerol and alcohol are sedatives, and their combined use intensifies their sedative effects. This can result in excessive drowsiness, impaired coordination and a higher risk of accidents or falls.
  • Increased respiratory depression: Demerol and alcohol can individually suppress the respiratory system, leading to shallow breathing. When combined, their effects synergize, increasing the risk of respiratory depression, inadequate oxygen supply and potentially life-threatening breathing difficulties.
  • Heightened risk of overdose: Mixing Demerol and alcohol significantly increases the risk of overdose. These substances potentiate each other’s effects, leading to intensified sedation, respiratory depression and central nervous system depression. An overdose can result in coma, brain damage or even death.
  • Cognitive impairment: Both Demerol and alcohol can impair cognitive function, including judgment, decision-making ability and reasoning. Mixing these substances can further compromise cognitive abilities, leading to poor judgment, risky behavior and impaired ability to react to potentially dangerous situations.
  • Gastrointestinal complications: Demerol and alcohol can irritate the gastrointestinal system, leading to nausea, vomiting and stomach pain.[5] Combining these substances can exacerbate these symptoms and increase the risk of gastrointestinal complications.
  • Worsening of underlying health conditions: Mixing Demerol and alcohol can have adverse effects on individuals with pre-existing health conditions. It can worsen cardiovascular issues, liver problems, respiratory disorders and mental health conditions.
  • Increased OUD and dependence potential: Both Demerol and alcohol carry a risk of dependence and substance use disorders. Combining these substances can reinforce addictive behaviors and increase the likelihood of developing these chronic conditions.

It is important to note that the risks and dangers associated with mixing Demerol and alcohol far outweigh any perceived benefits. It is strongly advised to avoid combining these substances. If misuse continues, immediate treatment is recommended.

Treatment Options for Addiction to Demerol & Alcohol

When it comes to treating opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder, treatment for co-occurring disorders is generally recommended.

The best treatment option for OUD is a plan that includes Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT).[6] MAT significantly decreases the likelihood of relapse and overdose by combining the benefits of counseling with the pharmacological support of Suboxone.[7] This medication is designed to stop the withdrawal symptoms associated with a physical dependence on Demerol, which in turn mitigates the psychological dependence on the substance. It also reduces cravings for opioid misuse, so you can focus on the work you are doing in therapy.

Combining Suboxone with therapy and holistic treatment provides an integrated approach to recovery that reduces the risk of relapse and provides people with OUD with the tools they need for sustained recovery. 

MAT is also available for alcohol use disorder in the form of medications like naltrexone, acamprosate and disulfiram.[8] If you have both AUD and OUD, your treatment team will determine the best treatment path to effectively manage both disorders.[9]
You can reach out to us here at Bicycle Health today for guidance on how to move forward.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Prescription CNS Depressants DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. March 2018. Accessed May 2023.
  2. Cognitive Impairment in Substance Abuse. Psychiatric Clinics of North America. March 2004. Accessed May 2023.
  3. Shared Mechanisms of Alcohol and Other Drugs. Alcohol Research & Health 2008. Accessed May 2023.
  4. The Effects of Combining Alcohol With Other Drugs. University of Michigan. Accessed May 2023.
  5. Gastrointestinal Side Effects of Drugs. Expert Opinion on Drug Safety. July 2003. Accessed May 2023.
  6. Information about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). U.S. Food & Drug Administration. May 2023. Accessed May 2023.
  7. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Addiction: Introduction to the Special Issue. Substance Use & Misuse. January 2018. Accessed May 2023.
  8. An Overview of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid and Alcohol Use Disorders. AJMC. October 2020. Accessed May 2023.
  9. Pharmacotherapeutic Management of Co-Morbid Alcohol and Opioid Use. Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy. February 2020. Accessed May 2023.

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