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Alcohol and Medications

The Risks of Mixing Dramamine and Alcohol

April 22, 2024
19 min read
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Why Dramamine and Alcohol Don’t Travel Well Together

  • Dramamine is an over-the-counter medication used to relieve nausea, especially when caused by motion sickness.

  • It’s best to avoid combining dramamine and alcohol since both are nervous system depressants. Mixing the two can also increase dehydration and intensify other side effects.

  • Reframe can help you make positive health decisions by empowering you to make smart, informed, and mindful choices about alcohol use.

Nobody likes to feel nauseous. It’s that indescribable feeling — not quite “pain” but somehow just as bad. And often there seems to be no escape from it. Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre dedicated a whole novel — Nausea — to the pervasive sensation. He writes, “The nausea has not left me and I don't believe it will leave me so soon; but I no longer have to bear it, it is no longer an illness or a passing fit: it is I.”

So if you tend to get nauseous — on planes, buses, that spinning teacup ride at Disney World — you probably have your travel kit stocked with over-the-counter nausea aids (if only they were around when Sartre’s protagonist was grappling with his affliction!).

But wait a second, is it okay to pop a Dramamine before knocking back a glass of wine on the plane or have a beer after you get off that bumpy bus ride? What are the dangers of mixing Dramamine and alcohol — can you drink on Dramamine at all? And what about using Dramamine for hangover-related nausea? Let’s find out more!

When Motion Makes Us Sick

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Unfortunately, motion sickness is a part of life for many of us. It can show up during our daily commute to work, in the back seat of an Uber, and even on vacation trips. As scientist Natasha Tuznik tells UC Davis Health, “A study conducted in 2019 found that almost everyone has experienced or will experience motion sickness at some point in their lifetime.”

This “sickness” goes way back — in fact, the word comes from the Greek naus, meaning “ship.” These days, of course, there are many other modes of transportation that seem to conspire to ruin our transit experience.

In a study published in Ergonomics, as many as 28.4% of people surveyed reported feeling ill during a total of 110 hours of test drives that included 5 types of vehicles and 17 different drivers. Moreover, 12.8% reported experiencing nausea, while 1.7% brave participants admitted to “losing their lunch” during the experiment!

Riding in cars is part of modern life. Thankfully, so is modern science! Enter: Dramamine.

Dramamine: A Lifeline for Motion Sickness

Dramamine (Dimenhydrinate) is an antihistamine used to kick the most unpleasant symptoms of motion sickness (such as nausea, vomiting, and dizziness) right to the curb. In fact, it can even prevent them from starting in the first place!

Know Dramamine by another name? That’s quite possible. According to ScienceDirect, this trusty travel companion has many aliases:

  • Andramine (or andrumin)
  • Antemin
  • Chloranautine
  • Detensor
  • Diamarin
  • Dimenhydrinat
  • Dommanate
  • Dramaban
  • Dramarin
  • Dramyl
  • Epha (or epharetard)
  • Faston
  • Gravol
  • Nausicalm (or paranausine)
  • Travel gum (as well as travelin, travelmin, or trawell)
  • Valontan
  • Vomex

Phew! That’s quite a list. Whichever alias you know it by, they all work the same way — and the mechanism is pretty clever!

How Does Dramamine Work?

Dramamine helps our body maintain a sense of balance during those bumpy bus rides and turbulent takeovers. It works by blocking certain signals in the brain that trigger these uncomfortable symptoms, providing much-needed relief during travel. While taking a pill when symptoms kick in is an option (it’s never too late!), many travelers opt for taking the precaution of popping one an hour or so before even getting on the bus (or plane, or car).

As for dosage, the standard for adults is 50-100 mg every 4-6 hours, with 400 mg per day being the limit.

While Dramamine is all about reducing the unpleasant “side effects” of travel, it comes with a bit of baggage of its own. The common side effects are usually pretty mild:

  • Dry mouth. This is the most common side effect of Dramamine. While this isn’t great for mouth health (and can lead to cavities over time), there are solutions to this. A few sugar-free xylitol lozenges can balance things out by promoting salivation, nipping this problem in the bud.
  • Blurry vision. Dry eyes and blurry vision are also common side effects, so it’s a good idea to bring some eye drops along for the ride — especially for those of us who wear contacts.
  • Dizziness. We might feel dizzy, especially if we stand up too quickly after sitting or lying down. Since motion sickness also can make us dizzy, it’s extra important to be careful, especially if we have any medical conditions that might put us at greater risk of falling.
  • Nausea. Wait, what? Yes, ironically, Dramamine can cause nausea in some folks (obviously the opposite of what we’re going for, but it does happen!).

When Dramamine and Alcohol Cross Paths

So what happens when we add alcohol to the mix? There are a couple of reasons why the two are not great “travel companions”:

1. Boosted Sedative Effect

Dramamine can make us drowsy on its own, but with alcohol in the picture, the effect gets much more pronounced — sometimes to a dangerous degree. As a depressant, alcohol numbs our senses and slows cognitive processing while impairing our motor skills.

The reason has to do with the way it affects our brain chemistry. Alcohol tends to increase the activity of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows down the nervous system, while simultaneously toning down the effects of glutamate, its “excitatory” counterpart. The result? Our reflexes take a hit, our cognitive abilities are dulled, and we feel drowsy.

The booze-dramamine combo can dangerously enhance impairment, raising the risk of accidents and injuries, especially in activities requiring alertness, such as driving. However, even if we’re not behind the wheel, the extra grogginess can get in the way. (After all, nobody wants to miss their connecting flight!) And if we end up having several drinks, we could get into dangerous waters by slowing down our central nervous system so much that it becomes a health risk.

2. Dehydration

Alcohol is notorious for leaving us parched and depleted of electrolytes, and adding Dramamine to the mix can make things worse. This dehydrating duo will leave you twice as thirsty — especially after a long plane ride!

3. Intensification of Side Effects

Mixing alcohol and Dramamine can also worsen other side effects, such as dry mouth, blurred vision, and dizziness. If we’re already feeling drowsy, this could really spell trouble, especially for those of us who are a bit older.

Timing Alcohol and Dramamine 

You might be wondering, “How long after taking Dramamine can I drink alcohol?” The effects of the medication can last from 4 to 6 hours, and it takes about 1 to 3 hours for its peak effects to show up. Given its half-life, it's best to wait at least 24 hours after taking Dramamine before drinking so your body can fully process the medication. Waiting an extra few hours might reduce the risk of adverse interactions even more.

Is one drink okay to have with Dramamine? Not really. Even one drink can significantly increase the side effects and amp up the risks, so it's best to skip booze entirely until the medication has cleared from your system.

Dramamine for Hangovers

Given that nausea is a common hangover symptom, it seems that it would make sense to reach for a Dramamine pill for relief.

But is it a good idea? Not so much.

It’s true that Dramamine can potentially alleviate some symptoms of a hangover, such as nausea and a sense of balance disruption. However, Dramamine’s sedative effects can add to the grogginess and cognitive fuzziness often experienced during a hangover.

Moreover, taking Dramamine to combat hangover symptoms can be risky if alcohol is still present in the system. The combination can lead to increased drowsiness, dehydration, and further impairment of judgment and motor skills.

A Note on Addiction Potential

Moreover, it’s also worth noting that while Dramamine tends to be safe for many people when it comes to potential misuse, for some it’s been known to be habit-forming (sometimes very much so — we’re talking large daily doses). If we have a history of substance misuse, it’s important to be careful and mindful about our Dramamine intake.

What About Bonine and Alcohol?

Finally, many of us might have noticed that Dramamine has a travel partner that usually shares the same shelf in the drug store — Bonine. Is this a better choice to take along for the ride if we know we might drink?

Bonine (meclizine) is also marketed as a motion sickness aid but one that claims to work all day — as opposed to Dramamine’s 4- to 6-hour window. Unfortunately for those who might have been hoping Bonine could work as a booze-friendly alternative to Dramamine, this isn’t the case. Bonine shares the same risk of central nervous system suppression — along with increased dehydration and intensified side effects.

To ensure safety, it’s best to avoid alcohol when taking any motion sickness medication.

Strategies for Safety 

Strategies for Safety

Ready for some tips on how to relieve nausea and hangovers more effectively (and maybe prevent them altogether)? Here we go!

  • Don’t mix Dramamine and alcohol. Try to stay away from booze if you know you’ll need to take Dramamine. The risk of experiencing adverse effects from either substance goes way up when you mix them, so it’s not worth it.
  • Consider other motion sickness aids. Anti-nausea bands that put pressure on a specific spot on your wrist can work surprisingly well for many people. Ginger chewing gum or lozenges can also help.
  • When it comes to hangovers, water is your best friend. While the thought of drinking water when you’re nauseous might be, well, hard to stomach — stay with us. Rehydration (and replenishing electrolytes) is key, so try to find a palatable way to do so. Adding electrolyte mixes such as Liquid IV can be helpful, since in addition to adding extra hydration power, they also tend to make plain water taste a bit better. Take small sips and listen to your body!
  • Rest and gentle movement can ease the symptoms as well. Most importantly, give yourself a break when you’re feeling nauseous, whether it’s from motion sickness or a hangover. It might feel like it will last forever, but rest assured — you’ll feel better eventually. If you’re up for it, gentle movement such as walking can help your body start getting back to normal. Try to get outside to get some fresh air if possible, and again — keep it simple and don’t overdo it.

Tips for the Road

If you’re finding that alcohol is taking up a bit too much air time in your life in general — whether or not Dramamine is part of the picture — here are some additional tips for the journey.

  • Scope out your habits. Start by evaluating your drinking patterns. When do you tend to drink the most? Is it social occasions? After work? When you’re traveling? Try to get an overall “lay of the land” — no judgment.
  • Track your intake. Consider tracking how much you drink for a while. You might be surprised at what this practice can reveal! Consider an app such as Reframe that can help you track your drinks (and provide helpful insights along the way!).
  • Check out sober events in your area. There’s so much fun to be had beyond booze, and these days the “sober-curious” movement is stronger than ever. Get curious and explore! If you’re starting your vacation with a Dramamine on the plane or car ride, consider spending your first day booze-free. This will also ensure you’ll have plenty of energy for day one of your days off!

Summing Up

Nausea is, unfortunately, a part of life, and it’s great that Dramamine is here to help. But the not-so-helpful interactions between this medication and alcohol don’t have to be part of your journey. Happy booze-free, hangover-free travels!

Summary FAQs

1. What is Dramamine?

Dramamine (Dimenhydrinate) is an antihistamine used to treat nausea related to motion sickness.

2. Can you drink on Dramamine?

It’s not advisable to mix alcohol and Dramamine. For one thing, both suppress the nervous system, and it could be dangerous to intensify this effect. Also, Dramamine and alcohol are both dehydrating, so mixing the two can make dehydration even more severe. Finally, alcohol could intensify the side effects of Dramamine, such as dry mouth and dizziness.

3. Does Dramamine help a hangover?

It’s not a great idea to use Dramamine for hangovers, since alcohol could still be in your system. It might compound the effects, making the discomfort worse.

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