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Home » Drugs and Medication

Mixing Alcohol With Medicines. What could happen?

Article / Review by on December 18, 2010 – 4:41 pmNo Comments


May cause drowsiness. Alcohol may intensify this effect. Use care when operating a car or dangerous machinery.

You’ve probably seen this warning on medicines you’ve taken. The danger is real. Mixing alcohol with certain medications can cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, fainting, or loss of coordination. It also can put you at risk for internal bleeding, heart problems, and difficulties in breathing. In addition to these dangers, alcohol can make a medication less effective or even useless, or it may make the medication harmful or toxic to your body.

Some medicines that you might never have suspected can react with alcohol, including many medications which can be purchased “over-the-counter”—that is, without a prescription. Even some herbal remedies can have harmful effects when combined with alcohol.

This article lists medications that can cause harm when taken with alcohol and describes the effects that can result. The list gives the brand name by which each medicine is commonly known (for example, Benadryl®) and its generic name or active ingredient (in Benadryl®, this is diphenhydramine). The list presented here does not include all the medicines that may interact harmfully with alcohol. Most important, the list does not include all the ingredients in every medication.

Medications are safe and effective when used appropriately. Your pharmacist or other health care provider can help you determine which medications interact harmfully with alcohol.

Medicines may have many ingredients

Some medications—including many popular painkillers and cough, cold, and allergy remedies—contain more than one ingredient that can react with alcohol. Read the label on the medication bottle to find out exactly what ingredients a medicine contains. Ask your pharmacist if you have any questions about how alcohol might interact with a drug you are taking.

Some medicines contain alcohol

Certain medicines contain up to 10 percent alcohol. Cough syrup and laxatives may have some of the highest alcohol concentrations.

Alcohol affects women differently

Women, in general, have a higher risk for problems than men. When a woman drinks, the alcohol in her bloodstream typically reaches a higher level than a man’s even if both are drinking the same amount. This is because women’s bodies generally have less water than men’s bodies. Because alcohol mixes with body water, a given amount of alcohol is more concentrated in a woman’s body than in a man’s. As a result, women are more susceptible to alcohol-related damage to organs such as the liver.

Older people face greater risk

Older people are at particularly high risk for harmful alcohol– medication interactions. Aging slows the body’s ability to break down alcohol, so alcohol remains in a person’s system longer. Older people also are more likely to take a medication that interacts with alcohol—in fact, they often need to take more than one of these medications.

Timing is important

Alcohol and medicines can interact harmfully even if they are not taken at the same time.


Mixing alcohol and medicines puts you at risk for dangerous reactions. Protect yourself by avoiding alcohol if you are taking a medication and don’t know its effect. To learn more about a medicine and whether it will interact with alcohol, talk to your pharmacist or other health care provider.

Commonly Used Medicines (Both Prescription and Over-the-Counter) That Interact With Alcohol

Symptoms/ Medication Medication Some possible
Disorders (Brand name) (Generic name)    reactions with alcohol
Allergies/ • Alavert® Loratadine Drowsiness,
Colds/Flu • Allegra® , Fexofenadin dizziness;
Allegra-D® increased risk
• Benadryl® Diphenhydramine for overdose
• Clarinex® Desloratadine
• Claritin® , Loratadine
• Dimetapp® Brompheniramine
Cold & Allergy
• Sudafed® Chlorpheniramine
Sinus & Allergy
• Triaminic® Chlorpheniramine
Cold & Allergy
• Tylenol® Chlorpheniramine
Allergy Sinus
• Tylenol® Chlorpheniramine
Cold & Flu
• Zyrtec® Cetirizine
Angina • Isordil® Isosorbide Rapid heartbeat,
(chest pain), Nitroglycerin sudden changes
coronary in blood pressure,
heart dizziness, fainting
Anxiety • Ativan® Lorazepam Drowsiness,
and • Klonopin® Clonazepam dizziness; increased
epilepsy • Librium® Chlordiazepoxide risk for overdose;
• Paxil® Paroxetine slowed or difficulty
• Valium® Diazepam breathing; impaired
• Xanax® Alprazolam motor control; unusual behavior; and memory problems
• Herbal Liver damage,
preparations drowsiness
(Kava Kava)
Arthritis • Celebrex® Celecoxib Ulcers, stomach
• Naprosyn® Naproxen bleeding, liver
• Voltaren® Diclofenac problems
Blood clots • Coumadin® Warfarin Occasional drink­ing may lead to int e rnal bleeding; heavier drinking also may cause bleeding or may have the opposite effect, resulting in possible blood clots, strokes, or heart attacks
Cough • Delsym® , Dextromethorpan Drowsiness,
Robitussin Cough® dizziness;
• Robitussin A-C® Guaifenesin + increased risk
codeine for overdose
Depression • Anafranil® Clomipramine Drowsiness,
• Celexa® Citalopram dizziness; increased
• Desyrel® Trazodone risk for overdose;
• Effexor® Venlafaxine increased feelings
• Elavil® Amitriptyline of depression or
• Lexapro® Escitalopram hopelessness in
• Luvox® Fluvoxamine adolescents (suicide)
• Norpramin® Desipramine
• Paxil® Paroxetine
• Prozac® Fluoxetine
• Serzone® Nefazodone
• Wellbutrin® Bupropion
• Zoloft® Sertraline
• Herbal
(St. John’s Wort)
Diabetes • Glucophage® Metformin Abnormally low
• Micronase® Glyburide blood sugar levels,
• Orinase® Tolbutamide flushing reaction
(nausea, vomiting,
headache, rapid
heartbeat, sudden
changes in blood
Enlarged • Cardura® Doxazosin Dizziness,
prostate • Flomax® Tamsulosin light headedness,
• Hytrin® Terazosin fainting
• Minipress® Prazosin
Heartburn, • Axid® Nizatidine Rapid heartbeat,
indigestion, • Reglan® Metoclopramide sudden changes
sour • Tagamet® Cimetidine in blood pressure
stomach • Zantac® Ranitidine (metoclopramide); increased alcohol effect
High blood • Accupril® Quinapril Dizziness, fainting,
pressure • Capozide® Hydrochlorothiazide drowsiness; heart
• Cardura® Doxazosin problems such as
• Catapres® Clonidine changes in the
• Cozaar® Losartan heart’s regular
• Hytrin® Terazosin heartbeat
• Lopressor® HCT Hydrochlorothiazide (arrhythmia)
• Lotensin® Benzapril
• Minipress® Prazosin
• Vaseretic® Enalapril
High • Advicor® Lovastatin Liver damage
cholesterol + Niacin (all medications);
• Altocor® Lovastatin increased flushing
• Crestor® Rosuvastatin and itching (niacin),
• Lipitor® Atorvastatin increased stomach
• Mevacor® Lovastatin bleeding (pravas-
• Niaspan® Niacin tatin + aspirin)
• Pravachol® Pravastatin
• Pravigard Pravastatin + Aspirin
• Vytorin™ Ezetimibe + Simvastatin
• Zocor® Simvastatin
Infections • Acrodantin® Nitrofurantoin Fast heartbeat,
• Flagyl® Metronidazole sudden changes in
• Grisactin® Griseofulvin blood pressure;
• Nizoral® Ketokonazole stomach pain, upset
• Nydrazid® Isoniazid stomach, vomiting,
• Seromycin® Cycloserine headache, or flushing
face; liver damage
Muscle • Flexeril® Cyclobenzaprine Drowsiness,
pain • Soma® Carisoprodol dizziness; increased risk of seizures; increased risk for overdose; slowed or difficulty breathing; impaired motor control; unusual behavior; memory problems
Nausea, • Antivert® Meclizine Drowsiness,
motion • Atarax® Hydroxyzine dizziness; increased
sickness • Dramamine® Dimenhydrinate risk for overdose
• Phenergan® Promethazine
Pain • Advil® Ibuprofen Stomach upset,
(such as • Aleve® Naproxen bleeding and
headache, • Excedrin® Aspirin, ulcers; liver damage
muscle Acetaminophen (acetaminophen);
ache, • Motrin® rapid heartbeat
minor • Tylenol® Acetaminophen
pain), fever ,
Seizures • Dilantin® Phenytoin Drowsiness,
• Klonopin® Clonazepam dizziness; increased
Phenobarbital risk of seizures
Severe • Darvocet-N® Propoxyphene Drowsiness,
pain from • Demerol® Merepidine dizziness; increased
injury, • Fiorinal® with Butalbital + risk for overdose;
codeine codeine slowed or difficulty
care, oral • Percocet® Oxycodone breathing; impaired
surgery, • Vicodin® Hydrocodone motor control;
migraines unusual behavior; memory problems
Sleep • Ambien® Zolpidem Drowsiness, sleepi-
problems • Lunesta™ Eszopiclone ness, dizziness;
• Prosom™ Estazolam slowed or difficulty
• Restoril® Temazepam breathing; impaired
• Sominex® Diphenhydramine motor control;
• Unisom® Doxylamine unusual behavior; memory problems
• Herbal preparations Increased
(chamomile, drowsiness
valerian, lavender)
* Reprinted from the International Food Information Council Foundation

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