Alcohol and Antibiotics
Alcohol should be avoided while taking antibiotics due to the harmful interactions that can occur, as well as the negative effects that alcohol has on the immune system.
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Mixing Alcohol and Antibiotics
Despite the fact that there are warnings not to consume alcohol on the majority of antibiotic packaging, it is a common misconception that drinking while on these medications is a relatively safe practice. In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions that doctors get regarding prescription antibiotics is, “is it safe to drink on these?” The short answer is no – alcohol directly inhibits the effectiveness of antibiotics and can additionally cause a wide range of negative side effects.
When the body breaks down alcohol, it produces acetaldehyde, which can cause nausea. Many people taking antibiotics already experience stomach or digestive side effects, and drinking alcohol while on these medications can increase feelings of nausea. In addition to gastrointestinal issues, both alcohol and antibiotics can hinder cognitive function, concentration, and coordination. Another thing to consider with alcohol and antibiotics is the fact that drinking interferes with the essential processes of the body like sleep and hydration, and these are critical components of recovering from a bacterial illness. Due to these factors, it’s best to stay away from alcohol for the duration of antibiotic treatment.
What Are Antibiotics?
Antibiotics, also known as antibacterial agents, are powerful medications that destroy or slow down the growth of bacteria. Antibiotics do not fight against infections caused by viruses such as colds or the flu, but instead bacterial diseases. Antibiotics work by either killing invading bacteria or stopping the antibodies from reproducing. While white blood cells in the body will usually attack harmful bacteria and cure the infection by itself, sometimes the number of foreign bacteria is too excessive, requiring antibiotics to help aid in the process.
There are several types of antibiotics available that treat a wide range of conditions, including:
- Strep throat
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Urinary tract infections
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Ear infections
- Skin infections such as acne
Most antibiotics are relatively safe when used as directed; however, many antibiotics also come with a risk of side effects such as upset stomach, nausea, and diarrhea. All of these effects can be amplified when taken with alcohol and cause additional side effects like vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, and even potentially life-threatening seizures.
The Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Antibiotics
Below is a table that depicts the effects of drinking alcohol while on some of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics.
|Antibiotic Class||Antibiotic||Should I Avoid Alcohol During Treatment?||Effects of Mixing Alcohol and the Antibiotic|
|Tetracyclines||Doxycycline||Yes||Reduced effect of antibiotic|
Altered mental status
Elevated blood pressure
|Yes||Folic acid deficiency|
|Limit alcohol consumption||Disturbances in attention|
The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Antibiotics
Both alcohol and antibiotics have individual sets of side effects that impact an individual’s behavior and mental state. Because of this, the two should never be mixed together. A handful of antibiotics can cause violent physical reactions when combined with alcohol. These include Metronidazole and Linezolid, which are commonly prescribed to treat intestinal tract and skin infections, and the sulfonamide medications of Sulfamethoxazole and Trimethoprim, which are used to treat everything from urinary tract infections to pneumonia to ear infections.
Consuming alcohol while taking these drugs can result in severe fatigue, a throbbing headache, dizziness, anxiety, chest pain, and heart palpitations. Alcohol can also worsen digestive side effects and turn into blood or mucus in stool, severe diarrhea, intense stomach cramping or pain, fever, uncontrollable vomiting. Mixing alcohol with certain antibiotics can also damage vital organs, including the liver. The kidneys are responsible for removing toxins, including medications, from the blood and body through urine. Antibiotics can overburden and damage kidneys and alcohol exacerbates this.
In addition to all of the debilitating side effects detailed above, alcohol can also hinder certain immune system processes and have a negative impact on the body’s ability to recover from an infection. Alcohol then not only slows the healing process and recovery time, but additionally puts an individual at increased risk of developing another infection.
Avoid Alcohol While Taking Antibiotics
Drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics can be risky. Not only can alcohol interact badly with some medications and cause severe side effects, it can also potentially interrupt the natural healing process. Alcohol should be avoided until the regimen of antibiotics is completed and your body receives adequate rest and nutrition. However, if you’re someone that suffers from alcoholism, this may be easier said than done. If you think that you may be addicted to alcohol, contact a dedicated treatment specialist to get started on the road to recovery today.
- Medical Reviewer — Last Reviewed: September 17, 2019
Brown, Megan N. (2018). Alcohol and Antibiotics: Is Mixing Them Really That Dangerous? Retrieved on 15th August 2019 from https://www.goodrx.com/blog/alcohol-and-antibiotics-is-mixing-them-really-that-dangerous/
Caporuscio, Jessica. (2019). Can You Drink Alcohol With Antibiotics? Retrieved on 15th August 2019 from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324991.php
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2014). Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol With Medicines. Retrieved on 16th August 2019 from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Medicine/Harmful_Interactions.pdf
Weathermon, Ron. (n.d.). Alcohol and Medication Interactions. Retrieved on 16th August 2019 from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh23-1/40-54.pdf
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