Drinking alcohol while taking medication can cause certain risks. For example, alcohol can alter the effects of medication, and conversely, some types of medication can boost the effects of alcohol. Read on and learn more about the risks of drinking alcohol while taking medication, like potential side effects, medications to avoid with alcohol, and more.
Feel free to speak to your pharmacist for advice on the risk of interaction between your medication and alcohol.
WHICH MEDICATIONS SHOULD NOT BE MIXED WITH ALCOHOL?
Antibiotics are one good example. While alcohol doesn’t usually reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics, the common side effects of antibiotics (like nausea, stomach ache, diarrhea, etc.) can aggravate similar effects of alcohol, so caution is advised. What’s more, if you’re taking the antibiotic metronidazole, the use of alcohol is strictly contraindicated because you could experience serious side effects.
Drinking alcohol while taking drugs that act on your brain and nervous system also warrants caution, because of the risk of additive side effects. For example, if a drug can cause drowsiness, dizziness or visual problems on its own, combining it with alcohol only increases your risk of experiencing those effects.
Examples of similar drugs include:
- codeine and morphine;
- sleeping pills;
- antihistamines (ex.: diphenhydramine).
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE INTERACTIONS BETWEEN MEDICATION AND ALCOHOL?
Alcohol can alter the effects of certain drugs, and conversely, certain drugs can amplify the effects of alcohol.
Here are some possible interaction scenarios:
- Drugs that slow the body's elimination of alcohol. When a drug interferes with the elimination of alcohol in your body, its effects are amplified. As a result, you could experience more pronounced symptoms of drowsiness, dizziness, impaired concentration and other effects.
- Alcohol influences the absorption and elimination of a drug. Alcohol sometimes alters the way drugs are absorbed or eliminated by your body, which means that more or less of that drug could remain in your bloodstream. That, in turn, can alter the effects of the drug, including your risk of experiencing side effects.
- Added effects. When a drug causes side effects that are similar to those of alcohol (drowsiness, dizziness, slurred speech or coordination, nausea, etc.), adding alcohol to the mix will only increase your risk of experiencing those symptoms.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU WAIT BETWEEN TAKING MEDICATION AND DRINKING ALCOHOL?
Drinking alcohol and taking medication at the same time does not necessarily mean doing it simultaneously. Medication taken in the morning can, in fact, interact with alcohol taken in the evening. What’s more, the effects of a drug in your body can be influenced by alcohol consumed the night before. So, giving yourself several hours between doses doesn’t guarantee that you won’t experience interactions and potential side effects. When in doubt, play it safe and speak to your pharmacist for advice that’s right for your particular situation.