On which medications should I avoid alcohol?

If you’re taking any medications, you should check in with your healthcare provider about things to do and avoid. For example, you might need to take some medicine with food or avoid drinking grapefruit juice with others. However, with alcohol, the effects of taking medication incorrectly can be especially serious. With which medications do you need to avoid alcohol?

What are the main categories?

Painkillers, painkillers, and painkillers. You’re unlikely to find a prescription painkiller that doesn’t have a warning on the label about mixing it with alcohol. In addition, many cough, cold, and allergy medications contain more than one ingredient that interacts with alcohol. If you’re taking medication in any of the following categories, you should check the label and/or talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist about whether it’s safe to consume alcohol:

  • Allergies, cold, or flu
  • Chest pain or heart disease
  • Anxiety or epilepsy
  • Arthritis
  • ADHD
  • Blood clots
  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Cough
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach
  • Infection
  • Mood stabilizer
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea or motion sickness
  • Painkillers
  • Seizure
  • Sleep problems

Isn’t there alcohol in some medications?

There is, and because those medications are often designed to make you feel drowsy, mixing alcohol with them can be dangerous. Some examples include cough syrup and laxatives. Women often feel the effects of alcohol more strongly than men, and older people’s bodies have a harder time breaking down alcohol. Mixing some medications with alcohol can be dangerous for everyone, but it can affect those demographics more intensely.

What are the potential effects?

When there’s an ingredient in your medication that interacts with alcohol, some reactions might include drowsiness, dizziness, potential overdose, rapid heartbeat, changes in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, impaired motor control, liver damage, ulcers, stomach bleeding, heart problems, low blood sugar, and more.

If you want to learn more about the medication you’re taking, your healthcare provider or pharmacist would probably be delighted to put all those years of school to use and guide you through it. If you’re unsure whether your medication is safe with alcohol, it’s best to steer clear until you can find out.

  • “Mixing Alcohol With Medicines.” Harmful Interactions. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2003. Web.
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