Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Mixing opioids and alcohol greatly increases risk of fatal respiratory complications, says study

Mixing alcohol and opioids greatly increases the risks of ventilatory depression, a potentially fatal condition that results in a failure to provide enough oxygen to the body's cells and remove excess carbon dioxide from them, says a study by researchers at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, published in the journal Anesthesiology. The opioid epidemic a major concern in rural areas, especially in Appalachia.

Researchers gave one 20-mg oxycodone tablet to 12 people aged 21-28 and to 12 aged 66-77 who had not been chronically taking or who had never taken opioids, says a press release. During three visits they were also given alcohol intravenously, with amounts increasing each time, from a placebo on the first visit, rising to one drink for women and three for men, then to three for women and five for men. "Researchers studied resting respiratory variables, minute ventilation—the amount of air the volunteers breathed per minute—and the number of times volunteers temporarily stopped breathing were obtained at regular intervals during treatment."

One oxycodone tablet reduced ventilation by 28 percent and two by 47 percent, says the press release. "The combination of ethanol with oxycodone caused a significant increase in the number of times volunteers experienced a temporary cessation in breathing." This occurred more often in the older participants.

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