10 medications you should not mix with alcohol

Some medications interact with alcohol. Such interactions may pose risks. Here’s a list of medicines you should not mix with alcohol

All medicines come with warnings. They can be about storing them in a cool place or keeping them away from children. Sometimes they are also about possible drug-alcohol interactions. If you mix alcohol with certain medications, they can cause nausea, vomiting or drowsiness, apart from other reactions. Medications can also become less effective due to alcohol. Are your pain relievers or diabetes medications part of this list? Read on to know the medications you should never mix with alcohol.

Is it safe to drink alcohol occasionally if you are taking medicines?

It is generally advisable to avoid alcohol while taking medication, as it can interfere with the drug’s efficacy and may exacerbate side effects, says internal medicine expert Dr P Venkata Krishnan.

Woman saying no to alcohol
Avoid drinking alcohol with medicines. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What medications should you not mix with alcohol?

There are some medications that make people sleepy or cause sedation. In such cases, consuming alcohol may make the side effects of the medication worse, as per a 1999 study published in Alcohol Research & Health.

Here are some medications that generally should not be mixed with alcohol, as per the expert:

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1. Antidepressants

Antidepressants, such as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), are taken to alleviate symptoms of depression. It works by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, improving mood, and restoring a sense of well-being that eventually helps in mitigating the symptoms of depression. If taken with alcohol, antidepressants can intensify drowsiness and impair coordination. It may also diminish the effectiveness of the medication, making the symptoms of depression even worse than before, says the expert.

2. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines like Xanax are taken to manage anxiety disorders and panic attacks. They enhance the calming effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. This results in relaxation and reduced anxiety. When taken with alcohol, Benzodiazepines
increase sedation and the risk of respiratory depression also gets escalated. This combination is quite dangerous as it can lead to severe drowsiness, memory problems, and overdose as well.

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3. Antipsychotics

Antipsychotics like Clozapine are prescribed to treat conditions like schizophrenia, helping to regulate neurotransmitters to alleviate hallucinations, delusions, and other symptoms of psychosis. Their intake with alcohol amplifies the sedative effects of antipsychotics, increasing the risk of dizziness, drowsiness, and impaired judgment. It is also likely to interfere with the medication’s efficacy.

4. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

NSAIDs, like Ibuprofen, are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These are prescribed to reduce pain, inflammation, and fever by inhibiting prostaglandins, which are mediators of inflammation. Consuming NSAIDs with alcohol may increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers, as both can irritate the stomach lining, the expert tells Health Shots.

5. Anticoagulants

Anticoagulants like Warfarin work on preventing blood clot formation, reducing the risk of strokes and deep vein thrombosis by inhibiting the blood-clotting process. Their consumption with alcohol can increase the risk of bleeding when taken with anticoagulants, potentially leading to severe consequences like internal bleeding.

6. Opioids

Opioids, including Oxycodone, are prescribed for severe pain management. They are powerful pain relievers that work on the central nervous system to alleviate discomfort. Combining opioids with alcohol intensifies central nervous system depression. This enhances the risk of respiratory failure, extreme drowsiness, and overdose.

7. Diabetes medications

Diabetes medications like Metformin help in controlling blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. It works by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing glucose production in the liver. Consuming these medications with alcohol can enhance the blood-sugar-lowering effects of diabetes medications, resulting in hypoglycemia, dizziness, and impaired cognitive function.

A woman with a wine glass
Drinking alcohol with certain medications can cause dizziness. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

8. Muscle relaxants

Muscle relaxants such as Baclofen are prescribed to alleviate muscle spasms and tightness. They work by acting on the central nervous system to reduce muscle hyperactivity. Combining muscle relaxants with alcohol can increase drowsiness and dizziness, enhancing the risk of accidents and falls.

9. Antabuse

Antabuse (Disulfiram) is used to treat alcohol dependence by causing unpleasant reactions like nausea if alcohol is consumed, thus discouraging individuals from drinking. Consuming alcohol while on Antabuse leads to severe discomfort, including nausea, vomiting, and headache, discouraging individuals from drinking.

10. Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a pain reliever and fever reducer that is commonly used to get rid of mild to moderate pain and reduce fever without the anti-inflammatory effects associated with NSAIDs. Consumption with alcohol can enhance the risk of liver damage, as both are metabolised by the liver. This combination may result in liver toxicity and failure, says Dr Krishnan.

It os crucial to consult with a doctor to understand the specific interactions for your medications, and avoid unnecessary reactions to medicines.