Curious How Mindful Drinking Can Help You Thrive? 🎉🙌
Click Here
A person holding medicine in one hand and alcohol glass in the other hand
Alcohol and Health

Is It Okay To Drink Alcohol While Taking Medication?

June 19, 2023
18 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Written by
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.
June 19, 2023
18 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
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.
June 19, 2023
18 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
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.
June 19, 2023
18 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
June 19, 2023
18 min read

Chances are you’ve been warned about the dangers of mixing alcohol with antibiotics. This is for a good reason: drinking alcohol with antibiotics can exacerbate side effects and impair our ability to heal. But, what about other prescription medications and over-the-counter remedies? Is there any time when mixing these things with alcohol is safe? 

In this post, we’ll explore the potential risks and consequences of consuming alcohol while taking medication. We’ll also look at common medications that interact with alcohol and offer tips on what we can do to safeguard our health. Let’s dive in!

Can You Drink on Antibiotics? 

We briefly touched on this already, but let’s provide a recap. It’s not safe to mix alcohol with antibiotics, but not necessarily because the combination impairs antibiotics’ effectiveness. In fact, research indicates that’s not quite the biggest concern. So, what’s the problem — what happens if you drink on antibiotics? 

Simply put, drinking alcohol with antibiotics can increase our risk of side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and drowsiness. It can also interfere with our ability to heal and worsen dehydration. 

While mixing any type of antibiotic can cause issues, some antibiotics are particularly dangerous when mixed with alcohol, causing more severe reactions. These include antibiotics like metronidazole, tinidazole, sulfamethoxazole, cefoperazone, ketoconazole, cefotetan, and griseofulvin. The bottom line is that it’s best not to drink alcohol when taking antibiotics. 

Can You Take Ibuprofen (and Other OTC Drugs) With Alcohol?

Understanding the potential interactions between alcohol and medications is vital. The problem with mixing alcohol and medication? Well, the majority of us use medication every day! In fact, according to data, 131 million people — or 66% of U.S. adults — use prescription drugs. Many more of us take over-the-counter (OTC) medications on a daily basis. As such, it’s important to understand how the combination of alcohol and medications can put our health at risk. 

While some people downplay the consequences of mixing alcohol with medication, the truth is that alcohol can interact with a wide range of medications, including prescription and OTC drugs, as well as herbal supplements. These interactions can lead to various adverse effects, depending on the specific medication and the amount of alcohol consumed. 

Interestingly, the way that medications and alcohol interact in our body can go both ways: alcohol can change how a medication works, and certain medications can change how we feel the effects of alcohol.

Let’s take a closer look at five of the potential risks associated with mixing alcohol and medication: 

  1. Increased side effects. Alcohol can exacerbate the side effects of certain medications, leading to increased drowsiness, dizziness, or impaired coordination. This is particularly dangerous when operating heavy machinery or driving, as it increases the risk of accidents and injuries.
  2. Reduced effectiveness. Alcohol can interfere with the way our body absorbs, metabolizes, or eliminates certain medications, reducing their effectiveness in treating our medical condition(s). This can lead to worsening symptoms or delayed recovery.
  3. Overdose risk. In some cases, alcohol can change the effects of certain medications in our bloodstream, increasing the risk of an overdose. This can result in severe health complications or even death.
  4. Liver damage. Both alcohol and certain medications are metabolized by the liver. Consuming alcohol while taking these medications can place additional stress on the liver, increasing the risk of liver damage or disease.
  5. Interference with mental health treatment. Alcohol can aggravate the symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, and it may interfere with the effectiveness of medications prescribed to treat these disorders.

The bottom line? Drinking alcohol while taking medication or OTC drugs can be a dangerous combination.

Common Side Effects of Mixing Alcohol With Medication

As we’ve learned, mixing alcohol with medication can intensify side effects. For example, some over-the-counter products can make the effects of alcohol — such as drowsiness — more intense. These are other side effects that can occur when alcohol and medication are combined: 

  • Upset stomach, nausea, or vomiting
  • Fatigue or excessive sleep
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Headaches
  • Blood pressure changes or heart damage
  • Changes in behavior
  • Changes in emotions or mental state
  • Loss of coordination, leading to accidents
  • Stroke, or heart attack

In severe cases, mixing alcohol with medications can lead to an overdose or alcohol poisoning — both of which can be life-threatening. Treat them as medical emergencies! Additionally, several chronic health problems can be caused by mixing alcohol with prescription medication:

  • Heart problems
  • Liver damage, failure, or cancer
  • Internal bleeding
  • Brain damage
  • Depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems

Given these short- and long-term side effects, we would be wise to avoid alcohol while taking medication!

Diagram about the effects of mixing alcohol with medication

Common Medications That Interact With Alcohol

Now that we have a general understanding of the potential consequences of mixing alcohol and medication, let’s get a bit more specific. Here are 12 common prescription medications or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs that may negatively interact with alcohol: 

  1. Pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can cause stomach bleeding and ulcers when combined with alcohol. Prescription pain medications, particularly opioids, can lead to severe drowsiness and impaired coordination when mixed with alcohol, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.
  2. Cough suppressants. Combining alcohol with medications used to treat a cough — such as Robitussin or Delsym — can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and motor impairment. The effects of the mix can be particularly dangerous (and deadly) if the cough medicine also contains alcohol.
  3. Antidepressant and antianxiety medications. Mixing alcohol with antidepressants can increase the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and may also exacerbate side effects, including dizziness, drowsiness, and coordination issues.
  4. ADHD medications. Medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — such as Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin — are stimulants. Combining them with alcohol, which is a sedative, can mask their effect, increasing the likelihood of an overdose. In some cases, harmful physical effects such as seizures may occur. 
  5. Sleep aids. Combining alcohol with sleep aids can lead to excessive drowsiness and an increased risk of accidents and injuries. In some cases, this combination can result in dangerous respiratory depression.
  6. Diabetes medications. Alcohol can interfere with blood sugar control in individuals with diabetes, potentially leading to critically low blood sugar levels. Mixing alcohol with certain diabetes medications can also increase the risk of lactic acidosis, a rare but life-threatening condition.
  7. Blood pressure medications. Alcohol can lower blood pressure, which can be problematic for people taking medications to manage high blood pressure. Combining alcohol with these medications can lead to dizziness, fainting, and an increased risk of falls.
  8. Cholesterol medications. Medications prescribed to lower cholesterol levels (known as statins) can cause flushing, itching, stomach bleeding, and liver damage. Combining these drugs with alcohol can make the risks and side effects worse, particularly if you have liver disease.
  9. Heartburn medications. Drinking alcohol with both OTC and prescription medications used to treat heartburn can cause tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) and sudden changes in blood pressure. These drugs can also intensify the effects of alcohol, leading to impaired judgment and sedation. 
  10. Muscle relaxants. Muscle relaxants — such as Atarax, Antivert, and Soma — are commonly used to treat back and neck pain. Combining them with alcohol can cause serious side effects, including drowsiness, dizziness, slowed or impaired breathing, abnormal behavior, memory loss, and seizures.
  11. Antibiotics. Some antibiotics, such as metronidazole and tinidazole, can cause severe reactions when mixed with alcohol, including rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, and headache. Additionally, alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of certain antibiotics, potentially delaying recovery from infections.
  12. Opioid pain medications: One of the deadliest combinations is alcohol and narcotic pain medications, such as Vicodin, Percocet, and Demerol. Mixing such medications with alcohol intensifies the side effects and increases the risk of a fatal overdose. 

Keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive. There are hundreds of prescription and OTC medications out there! Research shows that more than 100 drugs interact with wine, beer, Champagne, and hard liquor, triggering problems that range from nausea and headaches to life-threatening issues such as internal bleeding. 

Sadly, most people aren’t even aware of the risks of mixing alcohol and medication. In fact, one survey from the National Institutes of Health found that 42% of people who drank alcohol were also taking medication that could negatively interact with alcohol. This is why it’s so important not only to learn about the risks, but to always consult a medical professional to determine whether it’s safe to consume alcohol when taking any medication or substance.

Risk Factors for Mixing Alcohol With Medication

While anyone can experience negative effects from mixing alcohol with medication, some may have more severe reactions than others. For instance, research shows that women can experience the effects of mixing alcohol and medications more severely than men due to differences in their metabolism. In fact, women have higher blood alcohol levels than men after drinking the same amount of alcohol. 

Similarly, older adults — especially those who take more than one medication — are more likely to experience problems. This is largely because alcohol’s effect on the body changes with age. For older adults, it takes longer for the body to break down alcohol, leading to lower tolerance levels. Older adults are also more likely to take medication, so they have a greater chance of experiencing interactions between alcohol and medication. 

Tips for Safeguarding Your Health

If you are currently taking medication and considering consuming alcohol, putting your health and well-being first is an absolute must. Here are four steps to minimize the risks associated with mixing alcohol and medication:

  1. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist. First and foremost, you should always speak with your doctor or pharmacist about the specific medications you are taking and any potential interactions with alcohol. They can provide professional guidance on whether it’s safe to drink and any precautions you should take. Though it can be tempting to run a quick search online to figure out whether or not it’s okay to drink, this can lead to false information. So, always — always! — speak to a professional. 
  2. Read medication labels. Many medications include warnings about potential interactions with alcohol on their labels or the accompanying information sheets. Follow these instructions carefully to avoid any adverse outcomes. 
  3. Limit or avoid alcohol consumption. Depending on the medications you’re taking and the potential risks, it may be best to limit or avoid alcohol consumption altogether. If you choose to consume alcohol while taking medication (after getting the green light from your doctor!), be vigilant in monitoring your symptoms and any side effects. If you notice any unusual or concerning symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately. 
  4. Be mindful of supplements. A handful of herbal supplements shouldn’t be taken with alcohol. For instance, when mixed with alcohol, kava can make you feel drowsy or lead to liver damage; St. John’s Wort can make you feel dizzy, drowsy, and make it difficult to concentrate; and chamomile, valerian, and lavender can make you excessively sleepy.

The truth is that alcohol can do a number on our body — not to mention our mental health — even without taking medication. You might be surprised by how much better you’ll look and feel by cutting back on alcohol in general. 

The Bottom Line

Mixing alcohol with prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs can lead to severe side effects, reduced effectiveness of the medication, or even life-threatening complications. It’s important to always read the label and package of any medication you’re taking, whether it was prescribed by your doctor or purchased over-the-counter. If you’re still unsure whether it’s safe to drink alcohol with a certain medication, ask a professional. It’s not worth the risk!

If you want to cut back or quit drinking but don’t know where to start, consider trying Reframe. We’re a neuroscience-backed app that has helped millions of people reduce their alcohol consumption and develop healthier lifestyle habits.

Summary FAQs

1. Why is it dangerous to mix alcohol with medication?

Mixing alcohol with prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs can lead to severe side effects, reduced effectiveness of the medication, or even life-threatening complications.

2. What are common side effects of mixing alcohol with medication? 

Side effects that can occur due to the combination of alcohol and medication include stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, blood pressure changes, and loss of coordination, as well as changes in behavior, emotions, or mental state.

3. What types of medications negatively interact with alcohol? 

Some medications and over-the-counter drugs that may negatively interact with alcohol include pain relievers, cough suppressants, antidepressants and antianxiety medications, ADHD medications, sleep aids, diabetes medications, blood pressure medications, cholesterol medications, heartburn medications, muscle relaxants, antibiotics, and opioid pain medications. 

4. What are the risk factors for mixing alcohol and medication?

While anyone can experience negative effects from mixing alcohol with medication, some people may have more severe reactions, including women and older adults. 

5. What are some tips for minimizing the risks associated with mixing alcohol and medication?

Always be sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist about the specific medications you’re taking and any potential interactions with alcohol. It’s also important to read medication labels, heed any warnings, and follow instructions carefully. Most importantly, you can eliminate all risk by avoiding alcohol entirely while taking any medication.

Say Goodbye to Alcohol 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!

Call to action to download reframe app for ios usersCall to action to download reframe app for android users
Reframe has helped over 2 millions people to build healthier drinking habits globally
Take The Quiz
Our Editorial Standards
At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
Learn more
Updated Regularly
Our articles undergo frequent updates to present the newest scientific research and changes in expert consensus in an easily understandable and implementable manner.
Table of Contents
Call to action for signing up reframe app
Relevant Articles
No items found.
Ready to meet the BEST version of yourself?
Start Your Custom Plan
Call to action to download reframe app for ios usersCall to action to download reframe app for android users
5 Star Reviews
Downloads (as of 2023)
a bottle and a glass
Drinks Eliminated

Scan the QR code to get started!

Reframe supports you in reducing alcohol consumption and enhancing your well-being.

Ready To Meet the Best Version of Yourself?
3,250,000+ Downloads (as of 2023)
31,364 Reviews
500,000,000+ Drinks eliminated
Try Reframe for 7 Days Free! Scan to download the App