Mixing slow-release painkillers with alcohol - potentially deadly

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Health Canada has issued a warning that mixing some slow-release painkillers with alcohol could be potentially deadly.

The drugs, known as opioids, are often used to relieve severe pain over a prolonged period of time.

It is now thought possible that alcohol may speed up the release of opioid painkillers into the blood stream.

The manufacturer of the drug Palladone XL has advised that it may cause serious and potentially fatal problems when taken at the same time as any amount of alcohol.

Health Canada says that when the drug is taken with alcohol, potentially dangerous levels of the medication are released into the blood stream too quickly.

At present the company has not shipped Palladone XL to Canada since December 2004, and none is on sale in the country.

The health department says that though the warning is directed at Palladone XL, patients using other slow-release opioid products should be aware that there may be a possibility that these products could react in the same way when taken with alcohol.

The product labels do already warn of the dangers of combining the medication with alcohol, and to date there have been no reports of serious side-effects from Palladone XL in Canada.

The public needs to be aware that slow-release medications may also be marketed as extended release, controlled release and controlled delivery, and carry the abbreviations SR, XR, XL, SRC and SRT.

Health Canada has requested the manufacturers of similar drugs, provide data on how the medications react with alcohol, or conduct six-month studies if the data is unavailable.

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