When Taking Medications, Must You Stop Drinking?

Alcohol Abuse

It’s never a bad idea to abstain from alcohol whenever you’re taking a prescription medicine.

Some interactions between alcohol and medications are well known, and warning labels do an adequate job of informing people of specific dangers. In other cases, however, the research is still too sketchy to make definitive statements about what effects drinking alcohol will have when taking a certain medication. A consultation with your doctor is an opportunity to discuss these concerns. As a rule of thumb, it's never a bad idea to abstain from alcohol whenever you're taking a prescription medicine. The most well understood and potentially dangerous alcohol-medication interactions are discussed in more detail below:

Cold and Flu Medications

Whether over-the-counter or prescription strength, most cold and flu remedies contain ingredients that lead to fatigue and drowsiness. Fuzzy thinking is also a common result of the antihistamines present in cold medicine. When combined with even a small amount of alcohol, these side effects can be amplified to dangerous levels. Fortunately, this interaction is well understood and most consumers know better than to mix these medications with alcohol.

Anti-anxiety Medications

With brand names like Xanax and Valium, anti-anxiety medications are useful in controlling the symptoms of panic disorder, anxiety disorder, and insomnia. Unfortunately, these medications also entail a risk for abuse. People who drink alcohol while taking anti-anxiety drugs experience a synergistic effect, which is best expressed as 1+1=3. For those with a history or predisposition to substance abuse, the euphoric haze created by this combination of alcohol and anxiety medication may lead to a state of addiction.

Antidepressants

"...never mix antidepressants with alcohol." Antidepressant medications have shown great success in treating major depression and associated disorders. However, many of these drugs include side effects such as grogginess or a spacey feeling. Some patients have even reported confusion and hallucinations when taking certain antidepressants. These effects may be amplified when a person also consumes alcohol. For these reasons, you should never mix antidepressants with alcohol.

Ibuprofen

Available over the counter, ibuprofen is commonly used to alleviate headaches and other generalized pain. Doctors often prescribe high-strength ibuprofen to alleviate arthritis and sports injuries, because of the drug's anti-inflammatory properties. However, ibuprofen can cause irritation to the digestive system. When combined with alcohol, this damage may lead to severe indigestion and upset stomach. Studies also show that ibuprofen can prolong the effects of alcohol. Furthermore, if you have a headache, alcohol will probably only make it worse anyway.

Antibiotics

Most antibiotics have little or no interaction with alcohol. A certain class known as cephalosporin antibiotics, however, can generate profound side effects when mixed with alcohol. Symptoms such as wheezing, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and rapid heartbeat have all been reported by people who drink alcohol and take these specific antibiotics. This interaction may be sudden or delayed by several days. The cephalosporin antibiotics are powerful, and are used in the treatment of resistant or stubborn infections. Be sure to talk with your doctor about the type of antibiotic you're receiving and whether or not alcohol consumption is a safe idea.

Beta-Blockers

"...beta-blockers may interact with alcohol to slow muscular reflexes..." Typically used to manage high blood pressure or heart conditions, beta-blockers may interact with alcohol to slow muscular reflexes more so than alcohol alone. Poor coordination and lack of depth perception may also result from drinking moderately while taking beta-blockers. While these effects usually are not serious, you absolutely should avoid drinking heavily or driving a car.

Diabetes Medications

If you are currently taking medications for the treatment of diabetes, you should avoid alcohol entirely. There is a wide variety of diabetes medications on the market, and they all interact with alcohol in unpredictable ways. In some cases, alcohol reduces the effectiveness of the medicine. In other cases, alcohol may cause the blood sugar to rapidly spike or plummet. The medication Diabinese, when mixed with alcohol, can lead to violent illness and rapid heartbeat. Even if you're not taking medicine for your diabetes, it's a good idea to avoid alcohol as much as possible. Alcohol has little nutritional value, while altering blood chemistry in unhealthy ways.

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