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Mixing Morphine & Alcohol: What Are the Dangers & Risks?

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Sep 15, 2023 • 7 cited sources

Combining morphine and alcohol can be extremely dangerous. Risks include severe respiratory depression and fatal overdose in the short term, and addiction in the long term. 

Morphine and alcohol are both central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which means they slow breathing and heart rate. Therefore their effects, when taken together, may be exacerbated, leading to an increased risk of overdose, coma, and death. 

In the long term, chronic morphine and alcohol misuse can lead to opioid use disorder (OUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD), both of which are characterized by compulsive use despite negative consequences. A polysubstance use disorder or addiction may be more difficult to overcome and may require more intensive and longer-term treatment. However, Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) options are available.

What Do Morphine & Alcohol Do?

What Does Alcohol Do?

Alcohol is a natural fermentation product, created by rotting fruits, grains or vegetables. It is a central nervous system depressant that slows brain activity, heart rate and breathing rate. [1] It is also a legal substance, meaning it is used frequently. In 2020, about 1.34 billion people worldwide consumed alcohol.[2] 

What Does Morphine Do?

Morphine is from a class of medications called opioids, which are also central nervous system depressants. Opioids have a number of roles in the body. At a simplistic level, morphine and other opioids prompt the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine. These chemicals produce feelings of euphoria and dampen sensations of pain. Opioids, like alcohol, can cause respiratory depression and sedation. 

Can You Mix Morphine & Alcohol?

Because opioids and alcohol both cause respiratory depression and sedation, mixing morphine and alcohol can lead to dangerous side effects. [3] If taken in combination, one increases the risk of extreme sedation, respiratory suppression, coma and even death. 

Long-term, alcohol misuse can change your reaction to drugs like morphine.[4],[5] You may need more of the drug to address pain, increasing the risk of overdose and developing an opioid use disorder (OUD).

Signs of an Overdose on Alcohol and Morphine

Signs of a morphine and alcohol overdose may include:[6]

  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Gurgling or choking sounds
  • Pale or blue-ish skin, fingernails or lips
  • Limp body

If you suspect someone has overdosed, call 911 immediately and stay with the person. Roll them onto their side to prevent choking. Administer naloxone (Narcan), the opioid overdose medication, if you have it. You may have to administer it more than once since it only reverses a morphine overdose for a short period of time.[6]

Morphine and Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Long-term morphine and alcohol use can also lead to physiological dependence, which means your body has adapted to the presence of alcohol and morphine and now needs these drugs to function normally. If you suddenly are unable to obtain morphine or alcohol or stop using them, you’ll experience unpleasant and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as:[7]

  • Anxiety
  • Depressed mood
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches and bone pain
  • Goose bumps
  • Sweating
  • Rapid pulse
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Fever
  • Runny nose and tearing eyes
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Both withdrawal syndromes can be distressing, but alcohol withdrawal is particularly dangerous because of the risk of seizures. Because of this risk, the safest option for quitting alcohol and morphine is a medical detox setting in a hospital.

Treatment Options for Morphine & Alcohol Misuse

Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) programs are designed for people with OUD and alcohol use disorder (AUD). If you’ve developed an unhealthy relationship with morphine or alcohol, a MAT program could be what you need to quit for good.

MAT programs to treat OUD use medications like Suboxone and Methadone to treat opioid use disorder. For AUD, medications like disulfiram, naltrexone and acamprosate are used.

Bicycle Health uses telemedicine to deliver MAT treatment to individuals managing a substance use disorder. Contact us to find out if a virtual approach to SUD treatment is right for you.

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. Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 2022. Accessed April 2023.
  2. Global Study Finds Surprising Results for Alcohol Consumption. CNN. July 2022. Accessed April 2023.
  3. Facts on Addiction and Opioids. Arlington, Virginia. Accessed April 2023.
  4. Can I Drink Alcohol If I'm Taking Painkillers? National Health Service. January 2020. Accessed April 2023.
  5. Binge-Like Exposure to Ethanol Enhances Morphine's Anti-Nociception in B6 Mice. Frontiers in Psychiatry. January 2019. Accessed April 2023.
  6. Effects of Alcohol on the Pharmacokinetics of Morphine Sulfate and Naltrexone Hydrochloride Extended Release Capsules. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. May 2011. Accessed April 2023.
  7. About the Epidemic. State of Michigan. Accessed April 2023.

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