Originally Posted by noonwitch
Whitney Houston Tragedy: Medications that Should Never Be Mixed with Alcohol
Monday, February 13, 2012 5:13 PM
By Charlotte Libov
The death of Whitney Houston from an apparent drug and alcohol interaction was shocking to her fans, but Ozzie Delgado, the pharmacy director of Cleveland Clinic Florida, says it’s a tragedy he has seen played out many times.
“The problem is that, when people drink, they think they have a tolerance level. But that tolerance level can vary on a given day, depending on what you’ve eaten, for example, so you really don’t know what your threshold is,” Delgado tells Newsmax Health. Combining certain medications with drinking is “like playing Russian roulette,” he warns.
Houston was found dead in her Beverly Hills hotel room on Saturday. Although the results of the toxicology report on Houston could take weeks, reports say the singer was found dead in her bathtub after drinking while also taking Xanax. According to Delgado, Xanax (alprazolam), a common anti-anxiety drug, is particularly dangerous when combined with alcohol.
“Xanax belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, all which have a side effect called temporary amnesia. So now you have temporary amnesia and you’re compounding it with alcohol,” he notes. “As a result, you can lose track of the amount of alcohol you are drinking, and you lose consciousness.”
“It’s a snowball effect,” he says. “The drug slows your respiratory rate and, when you add alcohol, it slows your respiratory rate even more. You stop breathing at a normal rate, you stop oxygenating your body, and then your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, and it starts to snowball."
Houston had struggled with drug addiction for years before her death.
Xanax isn’t the only drug that can get you into trouble, says Keith Veltri, who is clinical pharmacy manager at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y.
“There are a lot of medications that, specifically when mixed with alcohol, can depress the respiratory system and cause drowsiness. People don’t realize that alcohol can intensify the effect,” Veltri tells Newsmax Health.
He says he believes such drugs are over-prescribed, especially anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and Valium. “Generally, Valium or Xanax for insomnia should only be taken for three weeks, or anxiety for four months. A lot of patients are on them forever, and they take them routinely, so they tend to forget about them if they are drinking,” he says.
But it isn’t only the anti-anxiety drugs (which are also prescribed for epilepsy) that can be dangerous when used with alcohol. Similar problems can also arise with prescription antidepressants such as Celexa, Prozac, Zoloft, and Wellbutrin, which is also prescribed for smoking cessation. Drugs used to fight insomnia, whether prescription or over-the-counter, also can be deadly when combined with alcohol. In addition, anti-psychotics such as Amplify, Seroquel, Risperdal, Haldol, and Thorazine should never be taken with alcohol. Patients should avoid drinking while taking painkillers such as oxycontin, morphine, and codeine, he says.
It isn’t only prescription drugs that can be dangerous. Delgado says that care should also be taken if you’re using a cough preparation that contains dextromethorphan, as many common over-the-counter cough syrups do. “People should be concerned with any of these medications that have ‘DM’ in the name,” says Delgado.
When it comes to a lethal interaction with alcohol, most people don’t realize that “it can take only one drug to do this,” he says. “This is a common problem and many people have died. It’s just magnified when it happens to a Hollywood star.”