Heroin & Teeth | How Drugs Affect Your Teeth

The dangerous effects of heroin are nothing to smile about—in fact, heroin might leave you without a smile at all. Meth is notorious for causing dental issues (commonly referred to as “meth mouth”), but most people don’t realize that there are other drugs that can also seriously affect oral health. Drugs such as heroin, cause bodily reactions that both, directly and indirectly, cause serious gum and tooth damage. Learn more about heroin & teeth and 

Reduces Saliva Production

Dry mouth is a common side effect of drug use that’s caused by a lack of saliva. This clear, viscous substance plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy mouth as well as proper digestion. Saliva enables us to taste, chew, and swallow; it provides protein and minerals to protect tooth enamel and gums; and it has important bacteria that break down food, preventing bad breath and cavities.

Having too little saliva makes individuals far more prone to tooth decay and gum disease. So while feeling a bit parched may seem fairly innocuous, the cause of this condition is quite alarming. It serves so many important functions that not only impact oral health but overall well-being. If left untreated, low saliva production can quickly go from an unpleasant sensation to something much more serious. 

Cause Clenching of the Jaw

Stimulants are prone to cause users to clench or grind their teeth, a condition called bruxism. This condition has been linked to the central nervous system, a body functionality that is heavily impacted by heroin use. 

Grinding or clenching of the jaw is uncomfortable at best and damaging at its worst. It can lead to weakened teeth or broken teeth, as well as lasting jaw and facial pain. The repeated stress on the teeth can also cause enamel to wear much more quickly, which can expedite tooth decay as well as unattractive physical damages such as chips, fractures, or even loose teeth.

Destroys Tooth Enamel

Heroin is acidic by its pharmacological nature, which can cause vomiting and acid reflux. Both of these physiological functions cause stomach acid to enter the mouth which can deteriorate teeth’s protective enamel. This thin, translucent coating is like a winter coat for each individual tooth. It protects teeth from daily use and insulates them from temperature changes and chemicals. 

Enamel is not regenerative and once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. Without this protective layer, our teeth become sensitive to hot and cold foods, easily stained, and more susceptible to bacteria and infection. 

Numbs Tooth Pain

Having painkiller properties, heroin and other opioids can contribute to an unhealthy smile by causing you to ignore tooth and gum pain. These are often the first warning signs of serious dental problems like a cavity, infection, abscess, or gum disease. The ramifications of ignoring such serious oral health concerns can quickly result in the discoloration and outright loss of teeth.


The health of your teeth may not be something you think of when you consider the consequences of using heroin, but you should. The extent of the damage can be severe, going much deeper than the mere roots of your teeth, and can be a very costly mistake. Drug use often impacts us in ways we don’t anticipate and waiting until an overdose has occurred to do something about it could put your smile in jeopardy.

What Are the Physical Signs of Heroin Addiction?

Heroin addiction isn’t pretty – and not just because of the shockingly high mortality rate (heroin accounted for 25% of all drug overdose fatalities in 2016). This illegal street drug takes a tremendous toll on the body, affecting everything from your ability to speak to the beating of your heart. In this article, we’ll explore the physical signs of heroin addiction that can alert others to the addict’s substance abuse problem.

Nodding Out

One of the most telling signs of heroin abuse. Heroin leaves users sedated hours after initial use and causes them to slip in and out of consciousness. It would appear that the heroin addict is constantly falling asleep. During their periods that they are awake, they will have difficulty focusing and are likely to be incoherent.

Track Marks

This slang term refers to the physical marks on the skin that are caused by heroin injection. These look like areas of discoloration, scars, or puncture wounds and are caused when the skin at the injection site doesn’t have time to heal. Their presence can also be caused by the use of dull or dirty needles, infection, or vein damage. Track marks are most commonly found on arms, legs, hands, and feet but can be anywhere on the body. 

Small Pupils (Miosis)

Also referred to as pinpoint pupils, heroin use can cause the pupils to constrict excessively, becoming two millimeters or smaller in diameter. On a normal person, this occurs when someone’s eye is exposed to bright light or if they’re trying to focus on an object that’s far away. In the case of a heroin user, heroin interferes with the function of the parasympathetic nervous system which regulates pupil size.

Tooth Pain/Bad Teeth

Dry mouth is a common side effect of narcotic drug use and is a result of impaired saliva production. However, the effects go far beyond oral discomfort. Saliva is an important part of maintaining oral health, the lack of which makes heroin users prone to developing gum disease. Other dental side effects can include rotten, discolored teeth, an increased number of cavities, and tooth decay.

Slow Breathing

Heroin is an opioid, a class of drugs that are also known to be central nervous system depressants. One of the bodily functions regulated by this system is that of breathing. Because heroin is so powerful, it can cause a notable decrease in breathing rate or in some cases, stopped altogether. The latter physical symptom is commonly associated with heroin overdoses and requires emergency medical attention.

Severe Itching

One physical side effect that most drug uses fail to anticipate is that of extreme itchiness. Heroin can cause the release of histamines, a compound that the body produces in the face of allergic reactions and irritates the skin. If you’ve ever experienced one, you know that they can leave you rashy and with an overwhelming sensation to scratch yourself. Additionally, heroin is known to result in dry skin which can also lead to an itchy sensation.


The gastrointestinal tract is another bodily function that falls under the jurisdiction of the central nervous system. When under the depressing effects of an opioid, digestion can be drastically disrupted which can result in feelings of nausea and vomiting. 


An extension of the effect of a disrupted gastrointestinal function is constipation. The effects of which are much more noticeable in chronic heroin users. Heroin not only interferes with how quickly food is broken down but also affects the speed at which food moves through the digestive system, namely through intestinal contractions. Once food has been processed and is ready to be excreted as waste, heroin’s depressant effects can prevent the sphincter from operating properly, making it difficult to eliminate waste as normal.

Persistent hacking cough

Heroin smokers are more prone to developing this side effect. Smoking (any substance) can cause or aggravate a number of respiratory problems. In the case of heroin, the dangers are amplified since opioids make it difficult to breathe or can prevent air from entering the lungs. 

Seeing the Signs of Heroin Addiction Can Be Tricky

The more moderate physical signs of heroin addiction aren’t difficult to detect but their ordinariness makes them deceptive. Individually, these symptoms can seem harmless, dismissed as a side effect of some other health condition. However, when these occur with the typical behaviors of an addict, heroin addiction can be much easier to detect. 

Heroin & The Senses: What Heroin Looks, Feels, Smells, and Tastes Like

Heroin is a notorious psychoactive drug known for bringing users to euphoric highs and miserable lows. It can be produced cheaply and quickly, which has led to heroin’s proliferation in cities, rural areas, and of people of all ages and socioeconomic standings resulting in the ongoing opioid epidemic. Having no medical use, heroin is an illicit opioid that has become a widespread issue of epidemic proportions. Learn more about how heroin affects the sense and how to recognize the harmful substance. 

What Does Heroin Look Like?

Heroin can appear in several forms: a fine powder, a tacky paste, and as a liquid. These variations in heroin’s physical state are caused by differences in production methods. 

Powdered heroin, the most commonly used form, can be found in various shades of whites, pinks, and browns. This color variation is indicative of the level of refinement: the lighter the color, the purer and more potent the drug. Its physical appearance can further be altered depending on the types of additives or fillers used to dilute it. 

Black tar heroin is the crudest form of heroin, it has the most chemical additives as well as the lowest potency. It resembles a small lump of coal that, despite the name, can be black or brown in color. Black tar is one of the most water-soluble forms of heroin and is most often used in liquid form. Once it’s melted down it is either injected with a needle or taken via inhalation in a method called foil smoking.   

What Does Heroin Smell Like?

In its purest form, heroin is rather odorless. By the time it hits the streets, however, heroin has often been diluted or otherwise manipulated which can cause heroin to acquire an odor. In most cases, heroin is reported to have a pungent, sharp acidic smell like that of vinegar. Lower grades of heroin that are less pure or have undergone greater chemical processing tend to smell the most strongly.

Black tar heroin, the least refined form of heroin that also has the most additives, is reported to have the strongest vinegar-like odor. It has also been described as having an acrid, burnt smell. Powdered heroin that has been cut with additives has been reported to smell like cat urine, cat litter, and a general odor of chemicals in addition to vinegar.

What Does Heroin Taste Like?

Heroin is described as having a general bitter taste. In most cases, any taste heroin might have is caused by the chemicals that were either the production process or as post-production additives to cut the substance. Powdered heroin has the greatest variance in taste due to the wide variety of substances that are used to cut it. Sometimes the substances are benign like sugar, baking soda, flour, or powdered milk. In some cases, heroin is cut with toxic chemicals like rat poison or powdered laundry detergent. For this reason, heroin can vary in taste to be sweet, bitter, or acidic. 

What Does Heroin Feel Like?

The feeling of a heroin high is often described as a sudden wave of pleasure or euphoria that washes over the body. The sensation is intense but fleeting and rarely lasts longer than a few minutes. Other side effects include feelings of artificial warmth as well as pain relief which make heroin particularly sought after by those in rough and unsafe living situations. After the initial onset of a heroin high, users are left in a semi-conscious state that can last for hours. 

But heroin use is not with its risks. Being an opioid, heroin can have a powerful depressant effect on the central nervous system making it difficult to breathe, inducing nausea and vomiting, and causing dizziness. 

A Little Heroin is a Big Risk

Heroin can have drastic and long-lasting effects. Using it just once could result in addiction, and lead to a dangerous spiral of impaired brain function that affects your ability to breathe, sleep, digest food properly, and control your emotions. Heroin withdrawal symptoms aren’t any prettier. Once physical dependence has been established, heroin users face the risk of experiencing seizures, difficulty breathing, and in the most severe instances, a coma. 

What Are the Signs of Opioid Addiction?

It can be difficult to identify the signs of opioid addiction if you don’t know what to look for. Addiction, especially in its early stages, isn’t always like what you see on television with dramatic standoffs and dangerous criminals. Sometimes it can be deceptively subtle. The individual indicators of opioid addiction might seem harmless in isolation and passed off as some other health condition. Learning how to recognize this kind of substance abuse order can save someone’s life.

Common Signs of Opioid Addiction

Opioids are a class of drugs that have widespread consequences on both the brain and the body. There are large amounts of opioid receptors on the spine which allows opioids to have a direct impact on the central nervous system. As such, many of the physical signs of opioid addiction will involve body functions that the central nervous system regulates. These functions include cardiac and respiratory systems. The most commons signs of opioid use disorder and addiction are as follows:

  • Chronic constipation
  • Small pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Increased pain sensitivity
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Depression or anxiety

There is no set time frame of how long it takes to become physically or psychologically dependent on opioids. However, there are a number of factors that can cause certain individuals to be more likely to develop an addiction than others. Those with the highest chances are those with a psychological disorder and those who have experienced substance abuse in the past. Being middle-aged or older is also a factor that can make addiction more likely.

Why Are Opioids So Addictive?

Both licit and illicit types of opioids carry a high risk of being habit-forming. Opioids mimic endorphins, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pain and pleasure, but are far more powerful than the version that our bodies create naturally. When opioids interact with an endorphin receptor (mu-receptors), they cause heightened levels of endorphin activity which can result in a powerful high. This sensation is often described as a wave of euphoria that is followed by an artificial feeling of calm and relaxation. 

The Hidden Dangers of Prescription Painkillers

Prescription painkillers, in particular, have a unique risk that has little to do with how powerful they can be. Opioid analgesics are renowned in medical communities for their effectiveness in pain management and are often prescribed to help deal with chronic pain. These types of painkillers can be prescribed for weeks or even months at a time. The chance of causing physical dependence is highly likely with these extra-long periods of use—even when patients closely follow recommended dosage instructions.

Next Steps: Treating Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction can be closer than you might think. Being able to identify the signs of opioid addiction and can quite literally save someone’s life. However, recognizing the signs is only the first step. Your next action should be to seek treatment. With opioids leading the reports of accidental death, it’s too risky to ignore.

Naloxone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are a few of the medications out there that can help mitigate the harmful effects of opioid use disorder. Many of them require a prescription making it very important to seek professional medical treatment as soon as addiction is detected. A combination of medically assisted treatment (MAT) combined with therapy gives opioid addicts the highest chances of successful recovery. 

In the instance of an opioid overdose, call emergency services immediately. One of the main side effects is respiratory arrest, this can result in permanent brain damage, coma, and death. 

How Long Do Opioids Stay In Your System?

Opioids are a broad classification of drugs that encompasses a wide variety of both licit and illicit substances. There are dozens of different types of opioids and opioid-derivatives and just as they vary in their purpose, so does the duration of how long they stay in the body. Just because you may no longer feel the effects of a drug doesn’t mean that it’s out of your system. Whether you use opioids to manage pain or to help with opioid withdrawal systems, understanding how long opioids stay in your system is crucial to doing so safely

Types of Opioid Durations

Opioids are generally categorized into three timespans: long-acting, short-acting, and ultra-short-acting (which is also known as ‘rapid onset’). The difference between the durations is quite intentional: some opioids are meant to last a long time, others are not. Medical professionals will determine which opioid they prescribe based on the type of pain and the circumstances of it. 

An opioid’s duration in the body however is not indicative of its strength. The shortest lasting opioid does not inherently mean it is weak, the longest acting doesn’t inherently make it the most potent. The unique combination of opioid duration and strength is very deliberately synthesized depending on the specific medical need. Below are a few examples of the different opioid duration classifications along with the opioids that fall into each category.

Long-Acting Opioids

  • Oxycodone
  • Levorphanol
  • Hydrocodone
  • Buprenorphine

Short-Acting Opioids

  • Codeine
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Tramadol 
  • Oxymorphone
  • Propoxyphene

Ultra Short-Acting Opioids (Fentanyl, Remifentanil)

What is Drug Half-Life? Why Some Opioids Last Longer Than Others

Half-life is a pharmacology term at the core of determining how long an opioid – or any sort of drug for that matter – takes to leave the system. As its name implies, it refers to the amount of time it takes for half of the total amount of substance to be eliminated from the body. Medically, it’s most practical use is to help prevent drug toxicity, and is used in doctor prescribing practices in determining dosing schedules (how frequently you are to take a medication).

So here’s how it works: The half-life of opioids can range between 36 hours and a little over half an hour. This time period is determined by pharmacokinetic reactions and is only somewhat influenced by physiological or circumstantial factors of the individual. It typically takes 4 or 5 half-lives for a drug to be completely eliminated from the system, however, this is only if no more of the substance has been entered into the body. 

Factors that affect how long opioids stay in your system

The factors that affect how long opioids stay in the system primarily fall into two categories: drug-related and physiological. An opioid’s half-life will be most strongly influenced by the drug’s purpose and potency, but can also be influenced by other factors to a certain degree. Other factors like one’s age, ethnicity, weight, etc. have a lesser effect but are still significant enough to be taken into account.

Drug-Related Factors

  • Type of opioid
  • Dosage
  • Tolerance/Level of use
  • Method of administration
  • Presence of other drugs in the body
  • Previous drug addiction

Physiological Factors

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Weight
  • Metabolism
  • Body mass
  • Body fat
  • Liver and kidney healthy

Why It Matters

One of the biggest causes of adverse opioid side effects is when other substances are added to the mix. These substances can be alcohol, illegal narcotics, prescription medications, or something as simple as a glass of grapefruit juice.

Accidental overdoses – another very real concern – is something that knowing how opioids are processed and broken down in the body can help prevent. From 2019 to 2010, the rate of opioid-related overdoses increased by nearly 40%, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths each year. Talk to your doctor about how long opioids stay in your system and what drug interactions to consider to avoid adverse effects.



How long does it take to get addicted to cocaine?

To answer the most pressing question on everyone’s mind: yes, you can become addicted to cocaine after just one try. Though instances of such are far less common compared to drugs like fentanyl or heroin, cocaine still carries a significant risk of causing addiction. As for the specific timeframe of how long it takes to get addicted to cocaine? It can vary, depending on a number of factors, some of which are uncontrollable like genetics, stress, and age. Those aside, there are a few factors that cocaine users do have control over and can determine how quickly cocaine addiction happens. 

Cocaine’s Short Half-Life

A cocaine high is easy come, easy go – and often leads to a cycle of constantly chasing that high. The psychoactive effects of cocaine occur quickly upon entering the body, happening in as little as a few minutes. Users feel a rush of pleasure, confidence, and energy as their bodies are flooded with dopamine – but it doesn’t last long. Those good feelings from cocaine typically end after 30 minutes or as quickly as 5 depending on the user’s tolerance. This usually causes a dangerous pattern of bingeing and crashing which can easily turn into compulsive abuse. In addition to an increased frequency of use, the dosage tends to increase as well, exponentially increasing the risk of developing a cocaine addiction. 

Method of Use

The way cocaine is taken – snorting, smoking, oral ingestion, or injection – can determine how long it takes to get addicted. While all of the ways of using cocaine carry inherent risk, intravenous injection significantly increases the odds that addiction will occur. The injection method puts large amounts of the drug directly into the bloodstream where it is almost instantly absorbed. Not only does this bypass the normal filtration cocaine would otherwise go through if it were to pass through the lungs or the liver should it be taken by other means, but it also heightens the intensity of cocaine’s effect. Increased levels of dopamine disruption equals a greater likelihood of addiction. 

Pre-Existing Mental Illness

Mental health disorders are closely tied to instances of substance abuse and addiction. Depression, anxiety,  One can cause the other or exacerbate the symptoms of the other condition. Regardless of which came first, when drugs are combined with an already-present neurochemical imbalance, it can result in a higher proclivity for both physical and psychological dependence. It also adds a level of complexity to treating addiction and many rehabilitation facilities have realized the necessity for a specialized approach. Dual diagnosis treatment is the best suited for co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Treating Cocaine Addiction 

There are currently no medications for treating cocaine addiction or to use during instances of an overdose (source). However, medical detox can help manage the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal or provide life-saving interference in the case of a cocaine overdose. When it comes to long-term recovery, most treatment for cocaine abuse involves behavioral modification such as contingency management and cognitive-behavioral therapy. No matter if you are a long-time addict or in the beginning stages of dependency, treating cocaine addiction is complex and multifaceted and is best handled at a specialized facility with experienced staff. Contact us today to learn more.

What Does Cocaine Do To Your Body?

Within a few seconds after taking cocaine, the pupils will enlarge, body temperature will increase as heart rate and blood pressure begin to speed up and constrict. Soon afterward is a rush of energy, alertness, and euphoria that quickly wears off and leaves you wanting more. This cycle of bingeing cocaine is common in recreational users. Unfortunately, the physiological repercussions of constantly putting the body in such a state of distress are widespread and drastic. Read on to learn the extent of what does cocaine does to your body.  

How Cocaine Affects the Brain

The three-pound control center of the human body, cocaine does quite a number on your most important organ. It disrupts several important neurochemicals (dopamine, serotonin, GABA, norepinephrine, and glutamate) which could result in permanent motivation, memory, decision-making impairment. 

One of the ways the cocaine works is by blocking certain receptors, one of which causes a buildup of dopamine. This is the cause of the sensations of euphoria, but it comes at a steep long-term cost. This dopamine surplus can also have a significant impact on mood regulation and lead to depression, anxiety, paranoia, and aggression.

The destruction of neuron receptors can also cause users to experience symptoms similar to that of Parkinson’s disease such as tremors, seizures, and brain hemorrhages.

How Cocaine Affects the Nose

Snorting is one of the most common methods of using cocaine, and it is not one without consequence. The initial effects are that of the blood vessels. Cocaine causes these to constrict which lowers blood flow and can lead to permanent damage. Repeated snorting irritates the thin membranous tissue in the airways which can result in inflammation, infection, disruption of blood flow, decay, and eventually tearing. Naturally, the loss of smell (anosmia) is also quite prevalent. Physical deformity caused by these substances is sometimes referred to as “cocaine nose”.

How Cocaine Affects the Heart

Have you ever felt your heart pounding in your chest after being really scared or agitated? Imagine the toll it would take if your heart pounded like that for nearly half an hour. Yes, some of the most dangerous effects of cocaine are the ones it has on the cardiovascular system. This is also why chest pain is one of the most common complaints of cocaine users. 

Cocaine blocks the reuptake of norepinephrine, an important neurotransmitter, chemical, and hormone that works closely with the sympathetic nervous system, a.k.a. our fight-or-flight mode. The increased levels of norepinephrine keep the body in an extended state of excitement which forces the heart to work harder. Heart rate increases, blood pressure increases while oxygen and blood flow to the heart are restricted. It’s a dangerous recipe that can result in a myriad of cardiovascular issues such as:

  • Aortic dissection
  • Atherosclerosis 
  • Coronary artery aneurysm
  • Myocarditis
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Arrhythmias 
  • Tachycardia
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure

How Cocaine Affects Gastrointestinal Systems

Gastrointestinal distress is a less common side effect of cocaine, but when it occurs, can quickly become life-threatening. Bowel decay is one of the most serious of these and is caused by a lack of blood flow to the intestines. It is most commonly associated with oral use of cocaine. Closely related is intestinal perforation (damage to the bowel wall) that can lead to the contents of your intestines to spill into your abdomen which can cause peritonitis and eventually, sepsis. Nausea and vomiting can be an indication that such an infection has occurred. Other GI issues that can occur are:

  • Stomach ulcers
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Abdominal bleeding
  • A decrease in appetite (often paired with sudden weight loss)
  • Change in metabolism 

Healing the Damages Cocaine Does To Your Body

Cocaine use affects nearly every major organ group with a focus on the central nervous system. In addition to wreaking havoc on specific parts of your body, cocaine can also lead to a domino effect of complex and compound health complications. Depending on the severity of cocaine usage, some of the damage may be reversible. However, this healing can only occur once you have detoxed and all remnants of cocaine are out of your system. If you are concerned about going through cocaine withdrawal alone, we can guide you through the process and determine the best method of treatment for you. 

The Dangers of Fentanyl and Alcohol

What is Fentanyl and How Is It Used?

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid with a dangerous reputation. It can be 100 times stronger than morphine, and 50 times stronger than heroin. This increased potency means a greater likelihood of causing life-threatening opioid side effects or a fatal overdose. These already significant risks are amplified even further when fentanyl and alcohol are combined. Even in small doses, the combination can be quite the lethal duo.

Forms of Fentanyl:

  • Lozenge
  • Pill
  • Patch
  • Injectable solution
  • Powder 
  • Blotter paper 
  • Eye droppers 
  • Nasal sprays 

Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II substance. This means that it has a high potential for abuse and can result in severe physical or psychological dependence. Other drugs in this classification include cocaine, methamphetamine, and oxycodone. This classification might come as a surprise seeing as how fentanyl is far more powerful than heroin, which is classified as a Schedule I, the highest tier. The reason for this is that fentanyl does have prescribed uses whereas heroin does not and is purely illicit. 

The Dangers of Fentanyl

Synthetic opioids are one of the leading causes of drug overdose deaths in the United States. Fentanyl leads those numbers and in 2017 resulted in nearly 30,000 overdose fatalities. Over half of all opioid-related deaths that year involved fentanyl. 

Unlike with other types of opioid abuse that are driven by misuse of a prescription (typically by a non-prescribed individual), the majority of illicit fentanyl usage is supplied by illegal manufacturing of the substance by clandestine laboratories.  

Although fentanyl operates as your typical opioid would, the higher potency means that the neurological reactions are much stronger, the effects on the body are more drastic, and the likelihood of addiction far greater. As little as a 2-milligram dose can be lethal (picture for scale). Fentanyl comes in a variety of forms and its versatility of consumption is a significant factor in why this dangerous substance is so widespread.

How Fentanyl Affects the Body

Fentanyl is fast-acting and works like your typical opioid. It is a mu-opioid receptor antagonist that controls pain and emotions. Once it has activated receptors, dopamine levels increase which blocks sensations of pain and sometimes results in feelings of euphoria. Fentanyl also acts as a depressant on central nervous system functions which can slow down breathing and digestion. One surprising difference between fentanyl and other opioids is that fentanyl does not seem to have the same cardiovascular effects that most other opioids do. The most common fentanyl side effects include:

  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoria
  • Hypoxia
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Slowed or difficulty breathing
  • Sweating

Fentanyl and Alcohol: Making a Bad Situation Worse

Both fentanyl and alcohol are depressants. They both cause cognitive impairment and disruption to central nervous system functions but do so in different ways. The primary danger of using both substances together is where those side effects overlap: respiratory depression.

On its own, fentanyl can slow breathing to a dangerous rate and initiate a potentially-fatal chain of events. Slowed breathing means less oxygen intake, and this oxygen shortage leads to brain hypoxia which often results in a comatose state. From there, things can quickly get worse. The best-case scenario of the individual waking up from a coma could still result in permanent brain damage from the lack of oxygen. The worst? Death. 

In addition to brain hypoxia, the rise of carbon dioxide levels (caused by the lack of oxygen’s presence) can trigger hyperglycemia. Both of these conditions eventually lead to a change in the brain’s temperature and slow metabolic brain activity

Treating Polydrug Use and Abuse

Using alcohol with any sort of medication is generally a bad idea, and opioids even more so. Polysubstance abuse brings out the worst of each other and can often result in entirely new sets of less than desirable side effects. In circumstances of polysubstance abuse, treatment can be particularly difficult trying to extricate one symptom or trigger from another. Our experienced staff are well-versed in such types of addiction treatment and can help manage unpleasant side effects with our medical detox program. Contact us today to learn more and start your journey to recovery. 

Is Alcohol Withdrawal Headache Normal?

Alcohol withdrawal isn’t pretty; it can trigger a host of unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms that can last a few days or as long as a few weeks.  Some are mild and flu-like, with little cause for concern. Other symptoms can be severe, life-threatening, and require hospitalization. Fortunately, alcohol withdrawal headaches aren’t usually part of the latter category. They are a fairly commonplace symptom and on their own are not a cause for alarm.

Why Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Headaches? 

The cause of alcohol withdrawal headaches is the same as withdrawal itself. Alcohol withdrawal happens when the body has developed a physical dependence on the substance. The brain has learned to compensate for the dulling effect of alcohol by constantly releasing extra chemicals in order to keep up functions as normal. This overstimulation becomes the new normal – even when alcohol is no longer present. The discomfort that occurs is the adjustment period of chemical production returning to normal. 

How Long Do Alcohol Withdrawal Headaches Last? 

Alcohol withdrawal is not a clear-cut process. It can vary widely from person to person based on the severity of their drinking habits, and get very messy in the interim before the body re-adjusts to functioning without alcohol. Therefore, alcohol withdrawal-induced headaches can be difficult to predict. The average withdrawal process can take a few days or, in rare cases, over a month to pass. 

Types of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can occur within hours after your last drink. However, the time distinction is not as important as the severity of the symptoms and does not follow a linear time-based schedule. Minor, moderate, or severe symptoms of withdrawal can occur at the very onset of the withdrawal process. 


The first stages of withdrawal begin around the 6-hour mark. Symptoms typically peak around the 48-hour mark and subside in intensity. Persisting symptoms that occur or worsen are usually attributed to delirium tremens, the most severe type of withdrawal. 

Minor Symptoms (Common)

The most common withdrawal symptoms are ones that affect the autonomic nervous system. These are functions that regulate the body’s automatic body functions like breathing, heart rate, digestion, reflexes, sneezing, etc., and typically cease after 48 hours.


  • Headache
  • Dilated pupils
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Higher body temperature
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

Moderate Symptoms (Less Common)

Moderate symptoms include psychological side effects. These can begin 12-24 hours after withdrawal begins, and lasts significantly longer, for up to 6 days. 


  • Hallucinations (visual, auditory, or touch)
  • Seizures

Severe Symptoms (Uncommon)

  • Hyperthermia
  • Hypertensions
  • Fast breathing
  • Extreme sweating
  • Tremors
  • Delirium tremens

Alcohol & Headaches 

Headaches are one of the first symptoms of alcohol withdrawal to occur. They typically do so within the first 24-hours and can range in intensity from mild to severe (migraine-like). Headaches are often one of the first indicators the withdrawal is occurring. Withdrawal isn’t the only condition associated with headaches after heavy drinking, however. Hangovers are also known to leave heads pounding and bleary after a night of heavy drinking. Sometimes, hangover symptoms can be so severe that it is mistaken for withdrawal. 


Despite the similarities, headaches caused by withdrawal are completely different from those that occur as the after-effects of a binge drinking session. Withdrawal headaches are triggered by the absence of alcohol in the system, while hangover headaches are caused by too much alcohol being consumed at once. So while the pain may feel the same, the underlying cause of a withdrawal headache is much more serious.


If you have begun to experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it is recommended to have medical intervention for the detox process. Contact us today to learn more. 







Oxycodone and Alcohol: A Dangerous Combination

There’s a reason why most medications have a warning label against mixing with alcohol. In this specific instance, the danger of simultaneously using oxycodone and alcohol lies in that they have similar effects on the brain and central nervous system, although they do so in different ways. Both of these substances are depressants capable of causing irreparable harm to internal organs and a permanent imbalance of neurochemical levels. When combined, these two drugs make a deadly pair that amplifies each other’s negative effects and creates an entirely new host of dangers.

How They Work On Their Own

To better understand the risk that combining these drugs can cause, let’s look at how oxycodone and alcohol work independently.


Oxycodone is a fast-acting opioid and powerful pain reliever. It functions by binding to opioid receptors, slowing down messages to the brain while simultaneously triggering the release of dopamine. This results in pain relief and a feeling of euphoria or relaxation. With neurons no longer firing as normal, this depression of neuron activity causes multiple bodily functions including breathing, heartbeat, metabolism, and digestion to slow. This, in turn, can cause severe respiratory issues, low blood pressure, and constipation. Oxycodone can remain in the system for several days after the last use, making it dangerously easy to cause substance buildup within the body.


Alcohol, another depressant, causes a number of both chemical and physical changes within the body. Similar to oxycodone, alcohol also causes the slowing of neuron activity. Alcohol interrupts dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and glutamate circuits, each of which has some effect on mood, motor skills, cognitive functioning, and impulse control. Long-term alcohol abuse can cause permanent damage to the hippocampus and result in severe memory impairment. Physical long-term side effects include hypertension, cardiac stress, liver disease, digestive problems, and depression.  

Side Effects of Oxycodone and Alcohol Combined

Even the most mundane medications (like an antifungal cream) can have dangerous repercussions when exposed to an opioid. So it goes without saying that adding alcohol to the mix is bad news. 

  • Dangerously slow breathing – The brain can shut down if it doesn’t get enough oxygen, this can lead to a coma or death
  • Low blood pressure and cardiac distress
  • Severely impaired memory or memory loss
  • Drowsiness or unconsciousness
  • Increased likelihood of addiction

Both of these drugs are depressants that have a significant impact on central nervous system functions, combining them can make existing side effects turn deadly. And besides making an already bad situation worse, using oxycodone and alcohol together can cause withdrawal symptoms to be even more severe.

Treating Polysubstance Abuse

Polydrug users, those who abuse or are addicted to multiple drugs, are at much greater risk of experiencing compounded drug side effects. This is often a result of individuals using multiple drugs to “balance” the other out and stabilize drug side effects. This is a dangerous practice that can cause toxic buildup within the body which can unleash an entirely new set of damage to the body.

Polysubstance abuse can be incredibly difficult to treat and the chance of relapse is significantly higher. Medical detox is recommended for circumstances like this, where the effects of having multiple drugs in a system can be severe and require medical intervention. If you or a loved one find yourself addicted to multiple drugs at the same time, consult a Level Up Lake Worth addiction professional today.