Chemical Enemies: Why You Should Never Mix Alcohol and Medication

HomeArticlesChemical Enemies: Why You Should Never Mix Alcohol and Medication

The medication you take for various ailments is composed of multiple chemical compounds. When these react as desired in your body, the result is often healing and recovery. However, throw in a chemical substance like alcohol, and you gunk up the works and undermine the effectiveness of medication. In the worst cases, you may experience adverse reactions that can harm your health. 

In this brief article, we will discuss the impact of alcohol intake on medication. We will elaborate on this relationship by showing you its effects on various types of medication. But first, let us start by discussing why alcohol does not go well with alcohol. 

Why Is Medication and Alcohol A Bad Idea?

There are so many ways alcohol can prove a bad idea when you’re under medication. One such way will be evident if you’ve had a few shots before, especially of the strong stuff. Your stomach may become uncomfortable, and some nausea may kick in. 

A feeling of vertigo and slowed-down motor function is also standard. You may ultimately even throw up your meds, among other things. 

However, the most dangerous effects have to do with the way the alcohol reacts with the medication. Alcoholic substances in your digestive tract can interfere with the way the medication is absorbed and undermine its effectiveness. Sometimes, it can decrease bioavailability (the drug concentration entering body circulation) or increase it to toxic levels.

Alcohol Abuse as a Factor

Even a small quantity of alcohol can have any number of effects on medication and your body, hence the recommendation to avoid it altogether when on drugs. However, if you have an excessive drinking problem, then all the risks are significantly greater, especially when it comes to alcohol poisoning. 

Moreover, it typically takes about 25 hours for your body to remove the alcohol from your bloodstream. Still, alcohol addiction or just excessive drinking can make body alcohol content a problem if you do end up needing medication for any reason. 

As such, if you have a problem with alcohol abuse, especially if you find it hard to do an about-face at once, it’s best not to wait till it gets to undermine a medical regimen you are on.

Addiction recovery groups and online resources prove very useful here. Some offer programs with the standard 12 steps of recovery of AA groups, especially for people with more spiritual leanings. 

Alcohol and Different Medications

Different types of medication have different chemical properties, so they don’t all react with alcohol in the same way. Moreover, it can affect the different ailments these drugs treat. So, let’s talk about these ailments, the relevant drugs, and how they fare against alcohol intake.

Mental Health Medications

On its own, alcohol tends to affect mental health conditions pretty badly, often making them worse. It can temporarily alter your brain chemistry, causing or exacerbating feelings like anger, anxiety, and depression, which can worsen mental health. But it doesn’t just worsen mental health conditions; it can also interact with hundreds of mental health drugs to produce different shades of undesirable results. Let’s consider some. 

Antidepressants: Antidepressant medications are very effective at treating depression, but they also tend to have some side effects, such as drowsiness, blurry vision, confusion, and erectile dysfunction. Alcohol can not only exacerbate the symptoms you’re treating in the first place but also worsen the side effects of the drugs. This is true for many antidepressant medications, like Lexapro, Zoloft, Paxil, Effexor, Elavil, and Luvov. 

ADHD Medications: We previously talked about how excessive alcohol intake multiplies the risk of alcohol poisoning. This is particularly true when dealing with ADHD meds like Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, and Dexedrine. Alcohol and stimulants like these mask each other’s effects, reducing the latter’s effectiveness and increasing the risk of poisoning due to the former. 

Antipsychotics: Doctors recommend antipsychotic medications such as Latuda, Abilify, and Zyprexa for mental health conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. When they interact with alcohol, the result is dizziness, lower blood pressure, impaired judgment, and worsening of symptoms.


The state of medical research on the effects of mixing alcohol with antibiotics is a tad unclear, as many studies have proven inconclusive. However, there is some indication that antibiotics and alcohol don’t make good fellows either. 

Antibiotics like Amoxicillin and Tindamax may tend to become less effective at dealing with bacterial infections when they meet alcohol on the job. Moreover, some studies have linked the combination of alcohol and antibiotics to symptoms like sudden blood pressure changes, flushing, headache, tachycardia, and even liver damage. 

Cholesterol Medications 

If your cholesterol levels are getting out of hand, your doctor might put you on a regimen of statins like Lipitor, Altocor, or Crestor. Now, these already tend to have their side effects; for instance, there is often a risk of statin intolerance, as well as mild liver inflammation. 

Alcohol intake can increase these side effects, although research has found that not everyone faces this too much. For example, a Harvard study in 2006 found that moderately drinking men taking statins after heart surgery was negligible. 

Diabetic Medication

Alcohol intake already adversely affects your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes; when it reacts with your diabetic medication, the additive effect can exacerbate your sugar level problem. Sometimes, it can lower your blood sugar level too much or raise it to dangerous levels. It generally depends on how much you drink. Additionally, you might experience tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), nausea, sudden blood pressure changes, and vomiting. 

Opioid Painkillers

Opioids are perhaps the most dangerous medications to take with alcohol, as they are not only very dangerous on their own but also dangerous in combination with alcohol. An opioid medication like Demerol can cause drowsiness, especially when abused; it can additionally cause impaired motor function, slow or difficult breathing, and memory loss. 

Final Thoughts

If anything should be clear by now, it’s that taking alcohol while on medication is a bad idea. We’ve discussed some types of medication whose curative or alleviatory effects can suffer when they interact with alcohol in your system. However, these are by no means the only types that can. 

From hypertension meds to cough suppressants and even over-the-counter drugs like aspirin, most types of medication are better taken in the complete absence of alcohol in your body. This means not just laying off the drinks when on medication but also that you should avoid alcohol as much as possible at all times.

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