Hypnotics are used for the treatment of mild, moderate or severe insomnia. Sedative effects of ethanol give some people a reason to consume alcohol-containing drinks to fall asleep faster. Before we answer the question whether it is possible to mix sleeping pills with alcohol, we need to figure out how the drugs with ethanol affect the human body.
Any psychiatrist will confirm that alcohol is not a hypnotic. The ethanol reduces the sleep onset time. However, after drinking alcohol people often wake up during the night and feel the symptoms of hangover in the morning, such as headache, dry mouth and others.
Small doses of alcohol really do lengthen the time and improve the quality of sleep, while the consumption of larger amounts of alcohol worsens and shortens it. However, the risk of using alcohol as a sleeping pill is that people develop tolerance to the dose after a while, due to which they have to increase it.
Sleeping pills, such as barbiturates, depress the activity of the central nervous system . As a result, the person’s respiratory rate and heart rate slow down. Alcohol inhibits the respiratory center activity, thereby potentiating the effects of barbiturates. Thus, the interaction of sleeping pills and alcohol may cause acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
An inhibitory process in the cerebral cortex is a characteristic reaction for mixing prescription or over the counter sleeping pills with alcohol. Hallucinations before the sleep onset can be a first symptom of the nervous system damage. In the future, person develops headaches with aura, loss of concentration, confusion, stupor, disorientation and other symptoms.
Both small and large doses of sleeping pills and alcohol present a danger. Overdose symptoms may include profound lethargy with loss of consciousness, increased blood pressure or bradycardia.
Thus, the combined use of sleeping pills and alcohol make the nervous system switch off, instead of leading to an increased soporific effect. It is no accident that the list of contraindications to many sleeping pills includes “alcohol dependence”, “acute alcohol poisoning” and others.
In addition to the inhibition of the respiratory center function, the danger of mixing sleeping pills with alcohol includes the formation of tolerance. People with alcohol dependence begin using sleeping pills to achieve different goals:
• self-treatment of withdrawal syndrome
• enhancement of the hypnotic effect
• reduction in anxiety or insomnia
With simultaneous use of drugs and ethanol, cross-tolerance develops between sleeping pills and alcohol. Therefore, people begin to rapidly increase the dose of the drug and ethanol, discovering the intoxicating, stimulating and euphoric effects of hypnotic drugs.
If side effects manifest as a result of mixing sleeping pills with alcohol, people need to go through gastric lavage procedure and take activated charcoal. Hospitalization and subsequent outpatient treatment may be required in especially severe cases.