Vicodin and Alcohol

by on June 4, 2012

Vicodin is a pain killer and should not be mixed or combined with alcohol at any level.  Alcohol is may be considered to be beer, wine, liquor, spirits, wine coolers, and dessert (or cocktail) liqueurs.

Possible Side Effects

Regardless of whether you or the patient experiences the side effects or adverse events listed below, they should seek help immediately.  Call Poison Control or 9-1-1 if a person drinks alcohol and takes Vicodin at the same time.

Side effects from the combination may include:

  • slowed respiration (breathing slows down)
  • severe nausea
  • breathing stops causing the heart to stop (respiratory failure)
  • vomiting
  • chest pain (because the heart is not getting enough oxygen)
  • heart attacks
  • liver failure
  • dizziness, euphoria, slurred speech
  • loss of consciousness and “blackouts”
  • death

Moderate Consumption of Alcohol during Vicodin

There is no safe threshold of alcohol while taking Vicodin. One issue is that both Vicodin and alcohol impair judgment and perception. One beer can easily turn into three or four. A 1-ounce cocktail can turn into a night of drinking. One glass of wine consumption might turn into, “well the bottle is open, I don't want to waste it.” One sip of alcohol during Vicodin therapy would not cause death; however, mixing pain killers with alcohol is the leading cause of poisoning in the United States.

Accidental Poisoning

If you or someone you know has been taking drinks of alcohol while taking Vicodin, call Poison Control immediately. Call 1-800-222-1222 to reach a Poison Control Specialist. You may also dial 9-1-1 to reach Poison Control. Do not let the person “sleep it off” because they may not wake up the next morning. Having the prescription bottle and a “rough idea” of the quantity of alcohol consumed is helpful for the Poison Control Specialist. They may tell you to go to Urgent Care or the Emergency Department. Do not be embarrassed if this happens, just take the appropriate actions. After you make the call, make sure you (or the person who has been poisoned) do not drink any fluids or eat any food until told do so by a healthcare provider or Poison Control.


Consuming alcohol while taking Vicodin (even on an “as needed” basis) increases the risk for an overdose of Vicodin. The two substances mix like two flammable substances and increase the activity of each other. If you find someone unconscious, call 9-1-1. There are antidotes and medications that can be used in emergencies situations. These medications can reverse the action of the Vicodin. Antidotes saves lives every day in North America and around the world.

The “standard” alcohol drink

Percentage of alcohol in various beverages varies greatly around the world; however, a standard “unit” of alcoho l generally consists of:

  • 330-357 ml of beer
  • 275 ml of wine coolers or "alcopops"
  • 35-50 ml of liquor/spirits/liqueors
  • 175-200 ml of wine