Many medications come with warnings against taking them with alcohol. Some may cause excessive drowsiness, resulting in dangers while driving a car or using electrical equipment. Others can interact with alcohol to form toxins that can damage your liver or kidneys. Some medications can reach toxic levels in your bloodstream when taken with alcohol. Alcohol can decrease the benefits of other medications, leaving you without their desired effects. Read on for the scoop on several medications that should never be taken with alcohol, and the reasons for this warning.
15. Allergy Medications
Seasonal allergies can cause miserable symptoms of itching, sneezing, and congestion. You may wonder if it is safe to sip your favorite alcoholic beverage while taking allergy medications. Unfortunately, most allergy medications contain antihistamines. Antihistamines work by blocking the effects of histamine, which is released by your immune system in response to allergens. Side effects of antihistamines include drowsiness, dizziness, and dry mouth. All of these side effects can be compounded by alcohol. The depressant effects of alcohol combined with the sedating effects of antihistamines mean you should avoid alcohol while taking these meds.
14. ADHD Medications
While alcohol is a depressant and medications that treat ADHD are stimulants, both have direct effects on your central nervous system. The combination of the amphetamine components of ADHD medications with the depressant effects of alcohol can lead to dizziness, drowsiness, and impaired judgment. Additionally, combining alcohol with stimulant medications can increase your risk of seizures, high blood pressure, and heart attack. To protect your heart, avoid drinking alcohol if you are taking medications for ADHD.
Moderate amounts of alcohol should not interact with the majority of antibiotics. However, there are some antibiotics that can cause severe reactions when combined with alcohol. Sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim is an antibiotic combination that can react with alcohol to cause nausea, vomiting, and increased heart rate. Metronidazole is another antibiotic that can cause severe headaches, nausea, stomach cramping, and flushing when alcohol is consumed. The University of Michigan School of Medicine warns that alcohol should be avoided for three days following the use of metronidazole.
Medications that affect your central nervous system can be affected by alcohol consumption. Many antidepressant medications can cause excess drowsiness, dizziness, or confusion when combined with alcohol use. In addition, combining them with alcohol can increase the risk of accidental overdose. A specific class of antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can cause severe heart issues when alcohol is consumed. MAOIs can combine with the tyramine found in certain alcoholic beverages and raise your blood pressure to dangerously high levels.
11. Anxiety Medications
Medications that decrease anxiety do so by working on the central nervous system. Benzodiazepines such as Ativan (lorazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and Valium (diazepam) decrease anxiety through their effects on the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. Taken with alcohol, they can increase drowsiness, interfere with motor control, and slow down breathing. Combining alcohol with anxiety medications can also result in memory and cognitive issues.Related: 10 Medications That You Shouldn’t Suddenly Stop Taking
10. Blood Pressure and Angina Medications
Mixing blood pressure medications with alcohol can cause excessive drowsiness, dizziness, and fainting. This combination can also trigger heart arrhythmias. Alcohol has additional negative effects on the heart when taken with medications to treat angina. Angina is the chest pain that can accompany heart disease. Combining alcohol with isosorbide or nitroglycerin can cause rapid heartbeat, swift changes in blood pressure, dizziness, and fainting.
9. Cholesterol Medications
Statins are a class of drugs that are effective in treating high cholesterol levels. They block the production of cholesterol in your body as well as prevent the blockage of blood vessels and arteries with cholesterol. In some individuals, statins have been shown to increase liver enzymes and contribute to liver disease. The combination of alcohol with medications such as lovastatin, rosuvastatin, and pravastatin may increase the risk of liver damage.
8. Cold Medicines
The antihistamines found in cold medicines can combine with alcohol to increase drowsiness, dizziness, grogginess, and decreased motor function. Additionally, some cough and cold preparations contain alcohol as a cough suppressant. The additive effects of these medications with alcoholic beverages can lead to increased drowsiness and mental impairment.Related: 11 Medications That Cause Memory Loss
7. Diabetes Medications
Oral diabetes medications lower your blood sugar levels by stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin. Combining anti-diabetic medications with alcohol use can cause abnormally low blood sugar levels, known as hypoglycemia. This mixture can also cause nausea, vomiting, headache, and sudden changes in blood pressure. A rapid heartbeat is another side effect of combining alcohol use with diabetic medications.
6. Muscle Relaxants
Muscle relaxants provide relief to tense muscles by relaxing the muscles and decreasing painful spasms and contractions. Common muscle relaxants are Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine), Soma (carisoprodol), and Robaxin (methocarbamol). When alcohol is consumed while taking muscle relaxants, the effects of alcohol may be increased. This may result in drowsiness, dizziness, impaired coordination, slowed breathing, and memory difficulties.
5. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Drinking alcohol while using NSAIDs for pain and inflammation can cause stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting. Additionally, this combination can cause stomach ulcers and internal bleeding. NSAIDs are also linked to kidney damage. Consuming alcohol while taking NSAIDs can increase the risk of kidney disease or kidney failure.Related: Are Expired Medications Safe to Use?
4. Opioid Pain Medications
Prescription painkillers containing opiates can prove dangerous when combined with alcohol. Alcohol increases the sedative effects of opioid analgesics and can result in excessive drowsiness, decreased mental cognition, and a slowed respiratory rate. Studies show that combining even one oxycodone pill with a small amount of alcohol can result in respiratory depression. This condition occurs when an individual’s breathing rate slows, becomes dangerously shallow, or even stops. The elderly are particularly at risk for this side effect.
Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is another pain medication that can form a dangerous combination with alcohol. This medication has long been used to treat headaches, muscle aches, pain from trauma, and to reduce fever. However, acetaminophen can cause liver damage when taken in excess. The combination of alcohol and acetaminophen can increase the risk of liver damage and liver failure. To protect your liver, avoid drinking alcoholic beverages when using acetaminophen.
2. Seizure Medications
Antiepileptic medications work by decreasing overactive electrical signals in the brain. As with any medications that affect the brain and central nervous system, antiepileptic medications can interact with alcohol. Drinking alcohol while using anticonvulsants can lead to increased dizziness, drowsiness, and mental impairment. In addition, alcohol may decrease the effectiveness of antiepileptic medications, resulting in an increased risk of seizures.
1. Sleeping Pills
Many of the medications used for anxiety are also used to treat sleep disorders and aid in achieving a good night’s sleep. Benzodiazepines not only provide a soothing effect on frazzled nerves, but they can also help relax a person and aid in sleep. Combining them with alcohol can increase their side effects, leading to memory issues, decreased motor control, and dangerously slowed breathing. Some sleeping medications utilize antihistamines, which may also lead to excessive grogginess and mental impairment when individuals use them and consume alcohol.Related: 10 Pain Medication Secrets Your Doctor May Not Tell You