Can Alcohol and Sleeping Pills Kill You?
Many individuals think mixing sleeping pills and alcohol will increase both effects and encourage greater sleep because both substances have sedative effects. Contrary to popular belief, combining the two drugs might have harmful and unexpected effects.
While overdosing on sleeping pills alone is unusual, it is not impossible. Changing the dosage of any prescription drug is dangerous, and mixing alcohol and sleeping tablets would be considered abuse.
People have used sleeping drugs to injure themselves, frequently combining them with alcohol to hasten the process. Researchers have made sleeping pills safer as drug development has advanced to reduce the possibility of suffering a deadly overdose.
Insomnia and PTSD may increase the risk of using alcohol as a sleep aid, increasing the risk of unhealthy drinking and mixing alcohol with sleep medications. 
Mixing Sleeping Pills and Alcohol
Can you drink alcohol and take a sleeping pill? No. While alcohol may initially produce sedating effects, potentially reducing the time it takes to fall asleep, it may also interfere with an individual’s ability to maintain sleep throughout the night and lead to increased middle-of-the-night awakenings. However, the initial sedating effects of alcohol diminish after a few days, as tolerance is rapidly established, while the disrupting effects of alcohol use on sleep persist.
- Can Alcohol and Sleeping Pills Kill You?
- Mixing Sleeping Pills and Alcohol
- How Do Sleeping Pills React with Alcohol?
- Alcohol and Sleeping Pills Side Effects
- Sleeping Pills and Alcohol Overdose
- Alcohol Addiction Signs
- Alcohol & Drug Abuse Treatment
Given that alcohol may lose its effectiveness as a sleep aid over time and contribute to sleep problems further, individuals who use alcohol to aid sleep may be at risk for complications from combining alcohol with prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) sleep medications, some of which should not be taken in combination with alcohol.
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How Do Sleeping Pills React with Alcohol?
Mixing alcohol and sleeping pills can have additive sedating effects from both drugs, and the combination can cause someone to stop breathing, which could cause death. Sleeping pill labels warn against using alcohol while taking the drug. Mixing sleeping pills and alcohol is never safe, as both are powerful drugs potentially lethal if abused.
The immediate risk of mixing alcohol and sleeping pills arises because both substances depress the body’s central nervous system (CNS). Since the CNS controls activities such as breathing and sleeping, a large overdose can have lethal consequences, such as people dying in sleep because they stop breathing.
A secondary consequence arises from the addictive nature of both alcohol and sleeping pills such as benzodiazepines. The likelihood of substance abuse and dependence increases when taken together over a period. Other risks for people mixing these drugs can arise through their subsequent behavior while half asleep or in an alcohol blackout due to the effect such drugs have on memory, coordination, and inhibitions.
The mix of alcohol and sleep pills can put people into an intoxicated state in which their consciousness is asleep while their body is awake. This is called a blackout. They will not remember their actions when they finally wake up. Blackouts commonly happen to people struggling with alcoholism, and the behavior is exacerbated by mixing sleep pills with alcohol.
Furthermore, dangers may arise from involuntary actions, such as inhaling vomit while asleep. Allergic reactions are possible to any medication, and combining them with alcohol may make an allergy more severe or perhaps more challenging to detect. Severe allergic reactions such as Anaphylaxis may be more challenging to treat where alcohol is also present in the body.
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Alcohol and Sleeping Pills Side Effects
Taking sleeping pills and alcohol is not wise. You never know how sleeping pills and alcohol reactions can cause side effects or how certain drugs will respond to alcohol, which is an issue when combining alcohol and sleeping pills. Depending on how much alcohol you’re ingesting and how much sleeping medication you’re taking, your risk of suffering negative responses also rises. Even while there may not be any laws against the combination of alcohol and sleeping pills, it is generally advised against doing so due to the potential for harmful side effects. The side effects of mixing alcohol and sleeping pills are due to each substance increasing the effects of the other.
Common side effects of mixing sleeping pills and alcohol include:
- Suppression of the nervous system
- Increased risk of alcohol and sleeping pills overdose
- Increased risk of sleeping pill addiction
- Increased risk of alcohol use disorder
- Interactions while sleeping, such as sleepwalking, sleep-eating or sleep-driving
- Impaired memory
- Worsened quality of sleep
- Risk of death
Alcohol and Sleeping Pills Death
Sleeping pills and alcohol death is not rare. Combining alcohol with sleeping drugs increases the chance that you’ll hurt yourself or someone else. Because they are both sedatives, many individuals wrongly think these medications cancel each other out. This is untrue, though, and there’s a far greater risk you’ll have negative side effects. While combining the two may not instantly result in death, doing so might nevertheless negatively affect one’s judgment and coordination, which can cause harm and even death.
Alcohol and Sleeping Pills Suicide
As sleeping pills work by depressing the central nervous system, the overuse of the drugs can slow body functions to such a degree as to cause unconsciousness, respiratory failure, and death. An overdose may be a deliberate suicide attempt. However, not all suicide attempts succeed, as vomiting is common when the drug is taken in excess. If this happens, the person may survive but have brain damage due to the lack of oxygen.
If you are thinking of suicide by alcohol and sleeping pills, benzo sleeping pills and alcohol suicide, or taking a lethal dose of sleeping pills and alcohol, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.
Sleeping Pills and Alcohol Hallucinations
Sleeping pills and alcohol can have other dangerous side effects, especially parasomnia. You have no awareness or control of this behavior and actions, such as sleepwalking and eating; even driving while half-asleep is a form of parasomnia. Such events are rare but potentially dangerous to the subject and anyone who might contact them in this state.
If you just can’t sleep, your doctor may prescribe you zolpidem tartrate (Ambien), a sedative primarily used to treat insomnia. While this drug may help you sleep, some who have taken it report potentially serious side effects, such as hallucinations, dizziness, and increased anxiety. Alcohol and sleeping pills effects, such as Ambien, can cause mild to dangerous side effects, including confusion, dizziness, sleep apnea, or overdose.
Decreased Sleep Quality
The effects of sleeping pills and alcohol are far worse than you can imagine. Your liver is in charge of metabolizing alcohol, and as the liver enzymes try to do so during the night, your blood alcohol level drops, increasing the likelihood that your sleep may be disturbed. While taking sleeping drugs and alcohol together might make you feel more fatigued and appear like you’ll fall asleep faster, the quality of your sleep will be poor. Many individuals are unaware of the mental chemistry changes that follow alcohol consumption, especially when combined with sleeping drugs. When you wake up feeling unrested, these alterations may have disrupted the brain waves connected to sleep.
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Over-The-Counter (OTC) Sleeping Aids and Alcohol Misuse
Alcohol and over the counter sleeping pills can have harmful interactions. While there are many prescription sleeping pills, other sleep aids are available over the counter. People who struggle with drinking may attempt to use over-the-counter medications for insomnia since sleep problems are common in people with an alcohol use disorder. The most common OTC sleeping pills and alcohol overdose and dangerous combination are the following:
Diphenhydramine and Alcohol
Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine occasionally used for sleep (Benadryl, Aleve PM, Tylenol PM, Sominex). Diphenhydramine and alcohol interactions can lead to more attention impairment than is predicted, which can be harmful. People process information and follow directions more slowly when using alcohol and otc sleeping pills, such as diphenhydramine combined. When the two drugs are combined, these effects increase, enhancing the impact of each substance. People who combine these two drugs may be at an elevated risk for developing a substance use problem.
Doxylamine (Unisom) and Alcohol
Doxylamine is an antihistamine used for sleep, similar to diphenhydramine. Due to the possibility of additive side effects, including decreased judgment, reasoning, and motor abilities, alcohol should be avoided when taking doxylamine. According to a warning to consumers, it is strongly suggested not to take this drug with alcohol due to its serious consequences.
Melatonin and Alcohol
In addition to being available over the counter as a sleep aid, melatonin is a natural hormone that plays a role in the sleep-wake cycle. There are no known pharmacological interactions between alcohol and melatonin. According to research, melatonin did not help people who had trouble sleeping after they used alcohol. Because of this, it is uncertain if melatonin, combined with alcohol, has any positive effects on sleep. 
Valerian and Alcohol
Valerian is an herbal supplement often taken as a sleep aid or to treat anxiety symptoms. Avoid drinking if you take valerian, as mixing them can increase side effects like dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. In rare cases, mixing valerian with alcohol may increase the risk of alcoholic liver damage.
Sleeping Pills Commonly Misused With Alcohol
Sleeping pills are depressant medications. They act upon the central nervous system to slow down the body’s function. They are classified as “sedative hypnotics,” and are prescribed to ease anxiety or enable sleep. The two main types of sedatives are barbiturates and benzodiazepines. Some of the dangerous drug interactions include Xanax sleeping pills and alcohol, prescription sleeping pills and alcohol deadly effects (such as Ambien sleeping pill and alcohol), alcohol weed and sleeping pills, and other benzo sleeping pills and alcohol mix.
Some of the more commonly prescribed barbiturates include:
- Luminal (phenobarbital)
- Nembutal (pentobarbital)
In recent years, benzodiazepines have supplanted barbiturates as the sedative drug of choice. Among the most commonly prescribed and misused with alcohol are:
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Halcion (triazolam)
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
- Tranxene (clorazepate)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Xanax (alprazolam)
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Alcohol and sleeping pills together might impair memory and cause sleepwalking. On the well-known sleeping pill Ambien, there have been multiple reported examples of people sleep-eating, sleep-walking, and even sleep-driving. It’s possible that these events won’t always be recalled later. These effects are exacerbated when alcohol is combined with medications like Ambien. These incidents may cause harm or, in some instances, such as while driving when sleep-deprived, may result in an arrest or other unwanted legal repercussions.
Sleeping Pills and Alcohol Overdose
To overdose sleeping pills and alcohol can be hazardous because observers may believe that a person is just in a profound sleep rather than overdosing. Sleeping pills and alcohol can cause death. Sleeping pills and alcohol overdose symptoms include the following:
- Prolonged heart rate and weak pulse
- Loss of consciousness
- Shaking and trembling
- Blue lips
- Pale or clammy skin
- Unresponsiveness to attempts to arouse
If a person displays any of the above symptoms, it is always best to call emergency services. Meanwhile, please do not leave them alone. If someone is unconscious and unresponsive, they should be put into the recovery position, ensuring their airways are open.
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Alcohol Addiction Signs
When learning about alcohol use and alcohol addiction, there are a number of different terms are used to describe the nature and frequency of use. Many of these terms are defined by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, CDC, SAMHSA, or National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Below are some of the definitions of these terms as outlined by the NIAAA:
- Binge Drinking: “A pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after four drinks for women and five for men—in about 2 hours.”
- Heavy Alcohol Use: “More than four drinks on any day for men or more than 3 drinks for women.”
- Alcohol Use Disorder: “Anyone meeting any two of the 11 criteria [outlined in the DSM-V] during the same 12-month period receives a diagnosis of AUD. The severity of AUD—mild, moderate, or severe—is based on the number of criteria met.”
- Standard Drink: “One ‘standard’ drink (or one alcoholic drink equivalent) contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol”.
Alcohol is arguably the single most addictive and dangerous substance that is legal to consume in the United States. A legal substance, alcohol consumption has become completely normal and almost expected when in many social settings. From weddings to barbeques and evening gatherings among co-workers, it is hard to escape alcoholic beverages. The common acceptance of drinking alcohol in our society and multiple beverages in one sitting has made it difficult to answer the question, “am I an alcoholic?” Also, one of the myths is “rem sleep is by alcohol and by sleeping pills,” this combination is fatal and has no benefits at all.
There are a number of side effects of sleeping pills and alcohol signs that you can look for if you are wondering whether you or your loved one is dependent on or addicted to alcohol or polysubstance use. These signs include:
- Increased alcohol tolerance and increase in the frequency and amounts of drinking
- Development of risky behavior such as unsafe sex or getting into legal problems
- Being in denial about the amount of alcohol you consume and feeling the need to hide your drinking habits from loved ones.
- Failing to disclose the real extent of your alcohol consumption
- Spending most of your time looking for alcohol, consuming alcohol, and recovering from alcohol hangovers
There are two major signs of alcohol addiction: tolerance and withdrawal. The body builds up a tolerance to alcohol after continued exposure. As the body adapts to continue functioning, the tolerance increases and leads to a person needing to consume even more alcohol to achieve the desired effects.
Furthermore, the body begins to expect the presence of alcohol, and the chemical makeup of the body depends on it. The second sign is alcohol withdrawal. This will be seen when the inflow of alcohol stops for whatever reason, and the body is forced to revert to operating without it. Physical symptoms of the second stage include stress and anxiety, accelerated heart rate, disorientation, nausea, the need to purge, and insomnia. If a person experiences these symptoms yet continues to drink to calm the discomfort, these are clear signs that help is needed. Abusing sleeping pills and alcohol withdrawal experience can be fatal.
Alcohol & Drug Abuse Treatment
The use of more than one drug, also known as polysubstance, is common. This includes when two or more are taken together or within a short period, intentionally or unintentionally. Intentional polysubstance use occurs when a person takes a drug to increase or decrease the effects of a different drug or wants to experience the effects of the combination.
Unintentional polysubstance use occurs when a person takes drugs that have been mixed or cut with other substances, like fentanyl, without their knowledge. Whether intentional or not, mixing drugs or substances, such as sleeping pills and alcohol, is never safe because the effects from combining drugs may be stronger and more unpredictable than one substance alone, and even deadly.
Those suffering from alcohol and sleeping pills addiction for long periods at high rates of use usually experience more severe withdrawal symptoms, making the medical detox process more difficult for them. The symptoms may seem to get worse through the treatment process. They need constant care and attention to help manage the symptoms. Delirium Tremens (one of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms) may lead to death if they are not managed well and in time. Alcohol addiction treatment is within your reach to ensure your recovery starts on a comfortable and safe step.
If you, your friend, or your family need help with alcoholism, contact us today at We Level Up today.
Can you mix alcohol and sleeping pills?
No. Sleep aids are generally safe, but risks arise when combined with alcohol.
Can you overdose on sleeping pills and alcohol?
Yes. Drinking alcohol while taking sleeping pills will likely trigger unwanted side effects and potentially cause a fatal overdose.
What does sleeping pills and alcohol do?
In general, it is advised never to mix sleeping pills and alcohol. Combining sleeping pills with alcohol can increase the sedating effects, thus seriously increasing the risk of overdose.
Can mixing sleeping pills and alcohol kill you?
Yes. Extreme care should be taken when mixing sleeping pills with alcohol, opiates, antidepressants, or antihistamines. In particular, combining two or more drugs that depress the central nervous system can lead to slowed breathing and even death.
What happens if you mix alcohol and sleeping pills?
Mixing sleeping pills and alcohol can cause the person to stop breathing and may result in death.
What happens when you mix alcohol and sleeping pills?
In addition to the dangerous effects of mixing sleeping pills and alcohol, some sleeping pills also come with side effects like sleepwalking and memory loss.
What happens when you mix sleeping pills and alcohol?
Both sleeping pills and alcohol depress specific body systems and functions. When taken together, even in small doses, this can cause negative symptoms like confusion, dizziness, and fainting.
Can mixing alcohol and sleeping pills kill you?
Yes, it’s dangerous. Since sleeping pills and alcohol are depressants, combining these substances can produce unconsciousness, breathing difficulties, seizures, coma, and even death.
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Longer stays in treatment frequently result in better outcomes, however success can vary from person to person. Detox alone is rarely beneficial for long-term recovery. Does treatment work? Attending treatment increases a person’s chances of long-term recovery compared to not attending.
Search Sleeping Pills and Alcohol & Other Resources
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 Savage RA, Zafar N, Yohannan S, et al. Melatonin. [Updated 2022 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534823/
 Lie JD, Tu KN, Shen DD, Wong BM. Pharmacological Treatment of Insomnia. P T. 2015 Nov;40(11):759-71. PMID: 26609210; PMCID: PMC4634348. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4634348/
 Nehring SM, Freeman AM. Alcohol Use Disorder. [Updated 2022 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK436003/
 Rehm J. The risks associated with alcohol use and alcoholism. Alcohol Res Health. 2011;34(2):135-43. PMID: 22330211; PMCID: PMC3307043. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3307043/
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