Alcohol Awareness Month: Medications that should never be mixed with alcohol
For people on certain medications, drinking alcohol, even in minute quantities can be dangerous. This is because alcohol interacts with numerous drugs, triggering complications like headaches, nausea, and even life-threatening complications like difficulty in breathing and internal bleeding. These interactions can intensify the effects of alcohol, increase the risk of drug side effects or make the medication too potent.
Some of the medications that should never be mixed with alcohol are:
- Painkillers – Painkillers like opioids are depressants and so is alcohol. Taking them together leads to a cumulative depressant effect which can impair important functions like breathing and heart rate. According to a past study, ingesting a low dose of the prescription painkiller oxycodone and taking one alcoholic drink in the span of an hour can cause a 50 percent further reduction in breathing compared to taking the painkiller alone.
- Sleeping pills – Three classes of drugs – benzodiazepines, Valium and Xanax – are the most commonly prescribed sleeping pills. These drugs are central nervous system (CNS) depressants and should never be mixed with alcohol because as it can get potentially fatal. Combining the two can lead to dizziness, confusion, and fainting. Further, alcohol can exacerbate insomnia, defeating the purpose of taking sleeping pills.
- Antidepressants – Antidepressants comprise a wide range of medications for the management of depression. Most of these medicines contain a compound called monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) which when it interacts with red wine or beer, might lead to a dangerous spike in the blood pressure.
- Allergy medicines – Allergy medication like Benadryl can alleviate allergy symptoms like itchy eyes, runny nose, and cough. However, drowsiness is one of its major side effects and this can be worsened by mixing it with alcohol.
- Acetaminophen – Also known as Tylenol or paracetamol, taking this medication is associated with liver damage which is accentuated when it is mixed with alcohol. Therefore, one should avoid taking these two together.
- Cold medicine – Cough syrups or nasal decongestants often contain ingredients which react poorly with alcohol, causing dizziness and drowsiness. Therefore, cold medicines must be avoided with alcoholic beverages.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)– Both NSAIDs and alcohol can affect the lining of the stomach and lead to ulcers and bleeding, therefore, they should never be mixed together.
- Antibiotics – Some antibiotics block the breakdown of alcohol in the body, leading to the difficult elimination of the latter. Therefore, one must avoid alcoholic beverages while one is on an antibiotic course.
- Blood-pressure medication – Blood pressure is a precursor to heart disease and millions of Americans struggle with it. Blood pressure medications can help lowering this pressure, however, many of these medications do not mix well with alcohol and can cause fainting, sleepiness, and irregular heartbeat.
- High cholesterol medication – Millions of Americans take cholesterol medication to keep their cholesterol levels in check, however, when these medicines are mixed with alcohol, liver damage is accelerated.
- ADHD medication – Although medications for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) act as stimulants, when taken with alcohol, these can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and an increased propensity for liver and heart complications.
- Prescription strength antacids – Drugs like metoclopramide are used for the management of indigestion and heartburn. However, it can increase the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol, thereby enhancing its effects. Changes in blood pressure and a rapid heartbeat are also known side effects of mixing the two together.
Seeking help for alcohol addiction
Refraining from taking alcohol when on certain medications might be difficult for people addicted to alcohol. If left untreated, alcohol addiction can have far-reaching consequences on each and every aspect of an individual’s life. Recognizing the ill-effects of alcohol addiction, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) observes April as the Alcohol Awareness Month. One must take this opportunity to spread awareness about the life-threatening consequences of long-term alcohol consumption at school, work and community level.
Alcohol is highly addictive and Hillside Mission understands that even if you or a loved one wants to quit alcohol, it might not be easy. The first step to any alcohol addiction treatment program is a detox. We offer evidence-based alcohol detox programs that can help you get rid of the toxins accumulated with years of use while preparing the body for further treatment. For more information about our alcohol addiction treatment clinic, call our 24/7 helpline (866)-225-6101 or chat online with a representative from our admissions team.