Using alcohol when taking medication is a big no-no. Besides altering how the medication works, the combination of alcohol and drugs can lead to severe health consequences, from rapid heartbeat and loss of consciousness to overdose and even death. In fact, some over-the-counter medicines (OTC) and herbal remedies that are generally considered safe can have harmful effects when paired with alcohol.
That said, it is best to err on the side of caution when you are taking medication. When you are out socializing, opt for non-alcoholic drink options. If you know that one of your friends is on medication, offer words of encouragement for sobriety
and urge them to refrain from drinking alcohol as well.
To help you better understand and appreciate the dangers of mixing alcohol and medications, read on. This piece will discuss the specific effects of some of the most common prescription and OTC products when they interact with alcohol. It is worth noting that this list is not exhaustive. If it does not include the specific medicine you are taking, consult your doctor to be safe.
Drinking alcohol while taking non-prescription painkillers like ibuprofen and naproxen is never a good idea. These drugs may be deemed safe for use by the general public, but they can lead to an upset stomach, ulcer, and bleeding stomach when combined with alcohol. Even the popular drug acetaminophen can lead to severe liver damage when you drink alcohol while taking this medicine.
OTC painkillers, which are relatively less potent than prescription opioids such as codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone, can still cause harmful side effects when mixed with alcohol. Drinking alcohol while also on opioids can cause excessive drowsiness, bradypnea or abnormally slow breathing, and even death.
Mixing alcohol and antibiotics can make the medication less effective in fighting the infection you are being treated for. It may also cause severe reactions, especially if you are taking metronidazole and tinidazole. Never drink alcohol when taking these antibiotics because doing so can result in unpleasant side effects, such as stomachaches, hot flushes, headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, and irregular heartbeat.
Allergy, Cold, and Flu Medicines
You should abstain from alcohol if you are taking medications for allergies, flu, or colds. These medications usually produce mild side effects like drowsiness and dizziness, but these effects could further intensify and cause impaired judgment and concentration when mixed with alcohol.
If you are taking antidepressant medications, the last thing you want to do is mix them with alcohol. Drinking can worsen the side effects of these meds and make the symptoms of depression even more severe. The combination of antidepressants and alcohol could also pose serious health risks. Although the unpleasant reactions may vary depending on the type of antidepressant, the most common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, mobility issues, liver damage, and cardiac problems.
Prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications are common in the United States. Many of them have central nervous system (CNS) depressant activity and can interact with alcohol. If you are taking benzodiazepines and other anxiety drugs with CNS depressant activity, be sure to abstain from drinking alcohol. Otherwise, you may suffer from severe reactions, such as extreme drowsiness, dizziness, respiratory depression, coma, and even death.
Medicines for Diabetes
People with diabetes should be very cautious about drinking alcohol because it can worsen blood sugar levels. If you suffer from this medical condition and are currently taking diabetes meds, do not assume that it is safe for you to drink. Mixing alcohol with diabetes drugs can affect your blood sugar levels and cause unpleasant side effects, like headache, nausea, increased heart rate, and rapid changes in your blood pressure.
Blood thinners are medicines used to address particular types of heart ailments and cardiac defects that could increase the risk of dangerous blood clots. These drugs prevent the development of blood clots and ensure smooth blood flow through the veins and arteries. If you are taking blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin), be sure to limit your alcohol consumption since the combination of these drugs and alcohol can make you more susceptible to internal bleeding. Better yet, talk to your physician first if you can take any alcohol at all.
Hypertension or high blood pressure affects a large number of the adult population in the country. Although the condition is usually symptom-free, doctors often prescribe blood pressure-lowering drugs in addition to lifestyle changes to prevent serious complications. If you are on hypertension meds, such as losartan, quinapril, clonidine, terazosin, benazepril, and doxazosin, you should avoid drinking alcohol. Apart from making you feel dizzy and drowsy, mixing alcohol and meds for high blood pressure can also lead to fainting and irregular heartbeat.
If you are taking muscle relaxers to relieve muscular pain or spasms, you should abstain from alcohol. Muscle relaxants and alcohol both depress your CNS and slow down your brain activity. That is why your breathing and heart rate slows down when you take any of them. Considering that both alcohol and muscle relaxers have depressant effects, mixing the two can intensify their effects and cause harmful consequences, such as fatigue, light-headedness, slowed breathing, memory problems, and reduced motor coordination, among others.
Arthritis medications, such as celecoxib, naproxen, and diclofenac may relieve pain and swelling, but you should refrain from drinking while taking them. Combining such drugs with alcohol could worsen the side effects and cause multiple issues like stomach ulcers, stomach bleeding, and liver problems.
The items discussed above are just some of the medications that can cause harmful side effects when combined with alcohol. There are hundreds more that are not included here. If the meds you are taking are not listed here, it is best to abstain from drinking until you consult with your doctor. After all, your health and safety should always be your top priority.