Is It safe to Use Prescription Drugs in Combination with  Over the Counter Medications or Alcohol?

Individuals who are taking a prescription medication and or over-the-counter (OTC) medications should consult their health care provider for the safety of using their medications in combination with other substances including alcohol. There are a number of factors such as type of medication, dosage, and the individual’s general health that influence the safety of taking medications when other substances are involved.

Depressants drugs that slow down breathing rate, such as opioids, alcohol, antihistamines, central nervous system depressants such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines, or general anesthetics are especially dangerous when taken in combination, due to the risk of an increase in life-threatening respiratory depression risks.1,2

Stimulants also present risks when used with other medications, unless otherwise prescribed by a physician. There are stimulants that have the chance of overdose when accidentally taken in combination with other medications such as the OTC cold medicines containing decongestants. Combining these substances may cause blood pressure to become dangerously high or lead to irregular heart rhythms.3

If you or someone you love is struggling with prescription drug addiction, get help. Florida Center for Recovery can answer questions you have about prescription drug detox and therapeutic rehab programs. There’s no obligation and your call is completely confidential.

Reach out to us. Florida Center for Recovery has been providing comprehensive addiction treatment services including onsite medical detox, and aftercare programming since 2002. Our inpatient rehab programs are highly specialized in treating an array of addiction-related mental health issues such as trauma, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.

Contact us at 800-851-3291, chat with an admissions advisor using the chat button on our website, or simply fill out the contact form for answers to your questions.


  1. Jones CM, McAninch JK. Emergency Department Visits and Overdose Deaths From Combined Use of Opioids and Benzodiazepines. Am J Prev Med. 2015;49(4):493-501. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2015.03.040.
  2. Jones CM, Paulozzi LJ, Mack KA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alcohol involvement in opioid pain reliever and benzodiazepine drug abuse-related emergency department visits and drug-related deaths – the United States, 2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63(40):881-885.
  3. Pentel P. Toxicity of Over-the-Counter Stimulants. JAMA J Am Med Assoc. 1984;252(14):1898. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350140044023.