Alcohol and Many Rx Drugs Do Not Mix
“I’m often asked whether it’s safe to mix alcohol with Rx (prescription) drugs and my answer is that you have to use common sense,” says Dr. Gregory Smith, said a noted pain management specialist.
“No one should ever drink large amounts of alcohol when taking prescription medications especially opioids, anxiety pills, or sleeping pills. All of these drugs are sedatives and mixing them with alcohol can cause profound drowsiness, respiratory depression and even death.”
Dr. Smith said the best Rule of Thumb is to avoid alcohol with all prescription drugs. He says that over-the-counter medications can be also problematic for people.
“But if you know a glass or wine or beer does not affect you adversely, then go ahead and enjoy in moderation,” he says.
Below is a list of the most common Rx and over-the-counter drugs that do not mix with alcohol, as follows:
1. Pain meds, sedatives, and sleeping pills. Some examples are Percocet, Vicodin, Demerol, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, Ambien, and Lunesta. As Dr. Smith points out, the side effects include drowsiness, impaired motor control, memory lapses, difficulty breathing and in rare cases, serious harm or death.
2. 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 clot meds. Coumadin may react with alcohol to increase the risk of internal bleeding, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The combination can 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,” she said.
4. Antibiotics. Zithromax, Flagyl, and Nizoral are examples of medications 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 down your recovery according to the Mayo Clinic.
5. Diabetes meds. Examples are Glucotrol, Glynase, Micronase, and Diabinese. Alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to fall dangerously low and result in a “flushing reaction” that involves nausea, vomiting, headaches and a racing heartbeat, says Smith.
6. Non-prescription pain medicationss. Common culprits are Tylenol, Aleve, Advil, Excedrin, and Motrin. Potential reactions with alcohol include upset stomach, bleeding and ulcers, rapid heartbeat, and liver damage — especially with Tylenol and Excedrin, which are acetaminophen.
7. Allergy and cold medications. Combining alcohol with products like Benadryl, Claritin, Claritin-D, Dimetapp, Zyrtec, Sudafed Sinus and Allergy, Tylenol Allergy Sinus, and Tylenol Cold & Flu can cause increased drowsiness, dizziness, and potential liver damage, if the product contains acetaminophen. The NIAAA recommends that you read the label on the medication bottle to find out exactly which ingredients are present and ask the Pharmacist if you have any questions about how alcohol might interact with a drug you are taking.
8. Cough Syrup. Robitussin Cough and Robitussin A-C may cause drowsiness and dizziness when mixed with alcohol. Remember that certain cough medications contain up to 10% alcohol, according to the NIAAA, so imbibing in addition to taking the drug can greatly increase the risk of those side effects.
“Patients who combine the 2 should never drink and drive or operate heavy machinery afterward,” says Professor Tiemeier. Cough medicine may also contain codeine, a narcotic, which results in 2X the trouble.
Remember, an alcoholic beverage now and then may be just what the “doctor ordered” but mixing booze with certain drugs can cause serious side effects.
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