While an alcoholic drink from time to time may be just what the doctor ordered, mixing alcohol with certain medications can cause serious side effects. In fact, just a glass of wine or beer can be dangerous when taken with certain prescription medications and even without a prescription.
“I’m often asked if it’s safe to mix alcohol with prescription drugs and my answer is that you have to use common sense,” says Dr. Gregory Smith, author of “The American Addict,” and a leading specialist in pain management.
“No one should drink large amounts of alcohol when taking prescription drugs, especially opioids, anxiety pills or sleeping pills. All these drugs are sedatives and mixing them with alcohol can cause deep sleepiness, respiratory depression and even death.”
Smith tells Newsmax Health that the best rule is to avoid alcohol with ALL prescription drugs. He says over-the-counter medications can also be problematic for some people.
“But if you know that a glass, wine or beer does not affect you negatively, then go ahead and enjoy in moderation,” he says.
Here is a list of the most common medications that do not mix with alcohol:
1. Medications for pain, sedatives and sleeping pills. Some examples are Percocet, Vicodin, Demerol, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, Ambien and Lunesta. As Smith notes, side effects include drowsiness, impaired motor control, memory lapses, shortness of breath and in rare cases, serious injury or death.
Arthritis meds. Examples include Celebrex, Naprosyn and Voltaren. Potential reactions include ulcers, stomach bleeding, liver damage, and with Celebrex, increased risk of cardiovascular events.
3. Blood clots meds. Coumadin may react with alcohol to increase the risk of internal bleeding, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The combination may also have the opposite effect causing blood clots, stroke or heart attack, says Dr. Amy Tiemeier, associate professor of pharmacy practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy. “Even social drinkers should be very careful when taking Coumadin,” he tells Newsmax Health.
4. Antibiotics. Zithromax, Flagyl and Nizoral are examples of medicines that when mixed with alcohol can cause rapid heartbeat, sudden changes in blood pressure, stomach pain and vomiting. Alcohol can also increase the side effects of these medications, such as upset stomach and dizziness, and slow your recovery according to the Mayo Clinic.
5. Diabetes meds. Examples are Glucotrol, Glynase, Micronase and Diabinese. Alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to drop dangerously low and result in a “reddening reaction” involving nausea, vomiting, headaches and an accelerated heart rate, Smith says.
6. Over-the-counter pain medication. The common culprits are Tylenol, Aleve, Advil, Excedrin, and Motrin. Potential reactions to alcohol include stomach upset, bleeding and ulcers, rapid heartbeat and liver damage – especially with Tylenol and Excedrin, which are acetaminophen.
7. Allergy and medicines for the cold. Combining alcohol with products such as Benadryl, Claritin, Claritin-D, Dimetapp, Zyrtec, Sudafed Sinus and Allergy, Tylenol Allergy Sinus and Tylenol Cold & Flu can cause increased drowsiness, dizziness and possible liver damage if the product contains acetaminophen. The NIAAA recommends that you read the label on the medicine bottle to find out exactly what ingredients are present and ask your pharmacist if you have questions about how alcohol may interact with a drug you are taking.
8. Cough syrup. Robitussin Cough and Robitussin A-C can cause drowsiness and dizziness when mixed with alcohol. Remember that certain cough medicines contain up to 10 percent alcohol, according to NIAAA, so drinking as well as taking the medication can greatly increase the risk of side effects.
“Patients who combine the two should never drink and drive or operate heavy machinery afterwards,” says Tiemeier. Cough medicine may also contain codeine, a narcotic, which results in double the trouble.