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Alcohol and Medications

Can You Drink on Mucinex?

Published:
April 26, 2024
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17 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
April 26, 2024
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17 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
April 26, 2024
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
April 26, 2024
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Reframe Content Team
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17 min read

Clearing Up the Facts: Why Alcohol and Mucinex Don’t Mix

  • Mucinex contains guaifenesin, which helps clear nasal passages to relieve congestion. It becomes less effective when mixed with alcohol.
  • Wait at least 12 hours after taking Mucinex before drinking alcohol to avoid exacerbating side effects and symptoms of your underlying reason for taking the medication.
  • Reframe can help you redefine your relationship to alcohol and prioritize your health. Quitting or cutting back on alcohol boosts your immune system so you can fight off those pesky sinus bugs even more quickly!

Mucinex and Alcohol: The Risks

Mucinex used to run commercials featuring “Mr. Mucus,” the lovable green and slimy antihero that the sinus-saving, cold-clearing medicine promises to sweep out of your nasal passages. So when you wake up clogged up and groggy, your eyes stinging and your m’s sounding like b’s when you talk, reaching for that trusty bottle of Mucinex can bring much-needed relief. But then you remember that beer you had before bed. Is it safe to take Mucinex after drinking? Should you wait? Let’s find out more!

What Is Mucinex and What Is It Used For?

As Mr. Mucus shows us, Mucinex is quite the multitasker. The active ingredient, guaifenesin, helps loosen up mucus to flush it out of the body.

A woman sitting on a bed, blowing her nose into a tissue

While it might sound like something that came out of test tubes in the lab, guaifenesin is as natural as it gets. According to The Encyclopedia of Toxicology, it was “originally derived from the guaiac tree and used by Native Americans for health purposes.” Having caught on to its medicinal magic, scientists began to synthesize it in 1912. However, it took 77 years for the FDA to officially approve Mucinex in 1989 and another 15 for Mr. Mucus to officially enter the scene as its mascot in 2004.

From pills to syrups, Mucinex comes in all shapes and sizes. It also “plays well” with other meds and is often combined with antihistamines, cough suppressants, and decongestants.

While Mucinex is a very popular version of guaifenesin (thanks in part to Mr. Mucus and his marketing power), the medication comes under many other brand aliases:

  • Air Power (the dairy-free, vegan version produced by Nature’s Way)
  • Cough Out (just guaifenesin under a different name) 
  • Equaline Tussin and Equate Tussin (also containing dextromethorphan)
  • Good Neighbor Pharmacy Tussin (a “neighborly” mix of dextromethorphan hydrobromide, guaifenesin, and phenylephrine hydrochloride)
  • Good Sense Tussin (guaifenesin with dextromethorphan)
  • Guiatuss (combined with codeine, available by prescription)
  • Leader Adult Tussin (another guaifenesin and dextromethorphan combo) 
  • Leader Mucus Relief (a mix of guaifenesin, hypromellose, magnesium stearate, maltodextrin, microcrystalline cellulose, polyethylene glycol, povidone, silicon dioxide, sodium starch glycolate, stearic acid)
  • Liqufruta (herbal garlic cough syrup with guaifenesin)
  • Refenesen Chest Congestion Relief (also contains phenylephrine)
  • Robitussin Chest Congestion (also contains dextromethorphan)
  • Siltussin (a liquid form of guaifenesin with a twist — this one tastes like strawberries)
  • Wal Tussin (Walgreens’ take on the dextromethorphan-guaifenesin combo)

Many other pharmacies and stores might have their own brand as well; it’s a tried-and-true remedy for congestion!

Can You Drink on Mucinex?

In short, alcohol and Mucinex are not a great mix. To understand why, let’s first take a look at the common side effects Mucinex is known for:

  • Nausea and vomiting. Mucinex can irritate the stomach lining, making us feel queasy or even causing us to throw up. 
  • Drowsiness. Like many other cold medications, Mucinex can make us nod off or feel a bit more drowsy than usual.
  • Headaches. Another pesky side effect some folks experience is headaches. Hint: staying hydrated can help!
  • Dizziness. Mucinex can affect our inner ear, temporarily throwing us off balance. It could also tweak our blood pressure a bit, causing minor fluctuations. Neither of these is a huge deal — it’s a bit like the feeling of standing up too quickly.


None of these are a huge deal on their own, but what happens when we mix them with alcohol? Let’s find out why combining the two is asking for trouble.

Alcohol and Mucinex: Worsened Side Effects 

Now that we have an idea of the side effects of Mucinex, we can see that adding alcohol to the mix isn’t the best idea. When we drink alcohol alongside Mucinex, we run the risk of worsening side effects: 

  • Sedation struggles. Alcohol is a known depressant, which slows down our central nervous system (CNS). And while guaifenesin’s CNS effects with guaifenesin are minimal, the mix could potentially make us extra drowsy and dizzy.
  • Hefty headaches. Both alcohol and Mucinex can cause headaches, so putting the two together is asking for trouble. As if having a cold doesn’t dehydrate us enough, alcohol can cause further dehydration and, consequently, headaches. Alcohol also causes vasodilation, increasing blood flow (and pressure) to the brain. The buildup of acetaldehyde — a toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism — turns up the headache dial even more.
  • Tummy troubles. We know that Mucinex can be hard on the stomach, and alcohol is even worse. Alcohol amps up stomach acid production, leading to irritation, nausea, and acid reflux. Over time, it could cause problems such as gastritis or stomach ulcers! (For a deeper look, check out our blog: “5 Ways Alcohol Affects the Stomach and Digestive System.”)

All of these symptoms can only make us more miserable when we are sick. But there are even more dangers to drinking alcohol with Mucinex. Let’s take a look. 

Alcohol, Mucinex, and the Liver 

Guaifenesin and alcohol are both metabolized by the liver, which can get overwhelmed by the dual task of digesting both. Even worse, overtasking the liver can lead to a buildup of acetaldehyde, which contributes to hangovers and can even cause serious illnesses in the long run.

Beyond Guaifenesin: Additional Ingredients in Mucinex

Another potential pitfall with combining Mucinex and alcohol? Guaifenesin may not be the only med in the mix. Many formulas that contain it have other ingredients to tackle all those additional cold-related symptoms, such as body aches and pains, cough, headaches, and sinus pain. And once again, most of them are not booze-friendly either: 

  • Dextromethorphan (DXM). According to WebMD, DXM is used to ease cough caused by infections of the air passages triggered by sinusitis or colds. It’s often included in Mucinex as one of the ingredients. 

    The problem with mixing DXM and alcohol? According to Drugs.com, on the lighter side, we could be looking at dizziness, drowsiness, and concentration difficulties. And if things get more serious, there’s a chance of more serious “impairment in thinking and judgment.”
  • Acetaminophen. This one is a bad match for alcohol as well. The liver metabolizes both, so combining the two could lead to toxicity. (For more insight into liver damage from alcohol, take a look at “How Much Alcohol Causes Liver Damage?”).
  • Pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. These two are great at helping us breathe more easily, but together with alcohol, pseudoephedrine in particular can be bad news. As a central nervous stimulant, it clashes with the depressant effects of booze and strains the heart. Moreover, the dizziness caused by all three — guaifenesin, pseudoephedrine, and alcohol — is a trip-and-fall waiting to happen, especially when we’re already under the weather.

If we’re nursing a cold, it’s better to avoid alcohol altogether. It will not only keep us safe but help us recover faster!

Get Well Later: Alcohol, Mucinex, and the Immune System

Finally, mixing alcohol and Mucinex doesn’t do us any favors when it comes to the reason we’re taking Mucinex in the first place.

For one thing, alcohol can throw a wrench in the workings of our immune system and isn’t the best ally in recovery from illness in general. (For more details, take a look at our blog “Alcohol's Impact on the Immune System.”)

Moreover, alcohol is a notorious diuretic that inhibits the release of the hormone in charge of telling our kidneys to hold onto water. And while Mucinex isn’t dehydrating per se, the cold itself is. So, adding booze to the mix dries up our body — and especially our sensitive nasal passages — even more.

How Many Hours After Taking Mucinex Should I Wait To Drink Alcohol? 

Doctors say to wait at least 12 hours to be safe. But if you have any concerns or are taking additional medications, always check with yours! They know you best and will be able to offer advice that’s tailored to your needs and situation.

How much alcohol is too much? Michigan State professor and physician James J. Galligan said in an interview with Self, “There are many drugs that can interact with alcohol resulting in loss of memory and consciousness … Even one or two drinks can interact with some drugs to produce severe intoxication and potentially loss of consciousness in some people.”

Another physician, David Cutler, clarifies that having a single drink probably won’t be the end of the world. Still, it’s not a great idea: “The problem is that people often think that if they feel OK after having one drink, they can have two, and things go downhill from there. Also, just because you’re probably OK if you stick with one drink doesn’t mean you can’t have a bad reaction. ‘It’s not that you’ll never have one, it’s just unlikely.’”

Tips To Stay Safe and Get Well When Taking Mucinex

Tips To Stay Safe and Get Well

To help you stay safe while taking Mucinex — as well as after you recover — consider these tips:

  1. Watch your intake. If alcohol has become a frequent habit, taking a break might seem a bit tough at first, but look at it as an opportunity to explore a healthier lifestyle! It’s best to avoid mixing alcohol and Mucinex to avoid a potentially dangerous mix of side effects, among other reasons.
  2. Hydrate. Hydration is crucial every day, but it’s especially important when we’re sick. Dehydration can also make Mucinex side effects such as nausea and headaches worse, so drink up!
  3. Nourish your body. Remember how your mom told you to “feed a cold”? Nutritious food is always important, but it’s especially crucial when we’re under the weather. Chicken soup is an old favorite for a reason — the warm brew is soothing for the throat and sinuses, while the chicken provides some much-needed energy. And those vitamin-packed veggies? An added boost for your immune system!
  4. Try some ginger tea. Ginger tea is known for its anti-nausea properties, plus it’s soothing! So if your cold (and Mucinex) are making you queasy, this time-tested cure could work wonders!
  5. Take time to heal. Take this time as an opportunity to enjoy some booze-free downtime. There are plenty of relaxing activities to enjoy — maybe a project (such as putting together a photo collage) that has been on the back burner for a while. Or a feel-good show marathon if you’re not up for getting up from the couch. Creative, comforting activities that feel like a “treat” serve as natural ways to release dopamine, keeping those alcohol cravings at bay.

Once you’re feeling better, you’ll be glad that alcohol didn’t mess with the healing process. Plus, you now have some tools to help you navigate alcohol-related situations well into the post-Mucinex future.

Respecting Your Future Self

In the end, we all get a visit from Mr. Mucus sometimes — it’s part of life. However, adding alcohol to the mix will only make the situation worse. As writer A.J. Jacobs observes in Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection, “The key to making healthy decisions is to respect your future self. Honor him or her. Treat him or her like you would treat a friend or a loved one.” Let’s appreciate the body that does so much for us and give it the love and care it deserves — our future self will thank us!

Prioritize Your Health With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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