Drugs You Should Not Mix With Alcohol

man sleeping on table with open liquor bottle and pill packets

Mixing alcohol and certain drugs can kill you. Good RX reported that almost 50 percent of Americans take a prescription drug. Many of these people will also drink alcohol. Consuming too much alcohol or mixing it with the wrong drug can cause serious physical consequences.

Look Out for These Drug Interactions

Alcohol misuse by itself is dangerous enough. But alcohol can interfere with the efficacy of drugs, negatively affecting their absorption into the body. Mixing drugs with alcohol can cause drug interactions like drowsiness or vomiting. Good RX says there are 25,000 emergency room visits every year caused by drug interactions with alcohol.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) says the warning label on prescription medication bottles is real. The risks include breathing difficulties, heart problems and internal bleeding. This includes over-the-counter medications purchased at any pharmacy in the country as well as herbal remedies. Some of these medications even contain alcohol, which makes it even easier to suffer ill effects when drinking. The NIAAA suggests carefully reading the label of any over-the-counter medication before consuming alcohol. Some commonly used allergy and cold and flu medications should never be taken with alcohol, including:

  • Benadryl
  • Claritin
  • Dimetapp
  • Sudafed
  • Triaminic
  • Tylenol
  • Zyrtec

Given that so many Americans are on medications for chronic conditions, what about drug interactions with prescription medications?

Drug Interactions With Prescription Medications

Americans take medications for everything from chronic conditions to antidepressants and drugs for erectile dysfunction. Many of these medications should never be combined with alcohol. According to Good RX, they include:

  • NSAIDS or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents can be prescribed or over-the-counter. But drugs like Celebrex and Aleve can also be harmful when taken with alcohol. Drug interactions can be particularly severe in patients 55 and older. Typically, doctors see gastrointestinal side effects like GI bleeding.
  • The antibiotic Flagyl should never be taken with alcohol; drug interactions include intense bouts of vomiting and stomach cramping.
  • Blood pressure medications like Nitroglycerin or Isordil can cause blood pressure to suddenly drop when combined with alcohol.
  • Doctors say to never mix insulin products with alcohol. The drug interactions can be severe.
  • Drinking while on the blood thinner Coumadin makes the medication completely unreliable and unpredictable. This increases the chance of life-threatening conditions like blood clots or stroke.

Drug interactions

Even common cold medications like Robitussin, which may contain alcohol or codeine, when mixed with alcohol can cause a life-threatening overdose. Consumer Reports says there are more than 100 prescription and nonprescription drugs that can cause serious and even fatal drug interactions. The magazine cited a study that showed that 80 percent of people 65 and older combined alcohol and prescription drugs. As a person ages, these drug interactions can be more immediate and more severe.

Mixing Alcohol with Street Drugs

Mixing alcohol with illicit drugs like heroin carries major risks as well. Opiates like heroin are central nervous system depressants, as is alcohol. The combination of these substances can lead to respiratory failure or death.

If you regularly mix alcohol and such drugs, you can get help to stop. Washington State addiction treatment resources help people every day in their quest to stop substance misuse.  Contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to find out more about our addiction treatment options.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.