Alcohol and Medication: Potentially Dangerous Interactions
A glass of wine or beer can be an enjoyable treat at the end of your day or when socializing with friends, but if you’re taking medication, your pharmacist may recommend you limit you this little pleasure—or skip it altogether! Here’s why:
Possible consequences of mixing alcohol and medication
Drinking alcohol may lead to decreased intellectual faculties, slowing of reflexes, poor coordination, and drowsiness. As a result, it should not be mixed with medication that has a similar impact on the brain. The cumulative effects of both substances may lead to accidents or falls. Seniors, especially, should be mindful of those risks.
Both alcohol and medication are processed through the liver to be eliminated from the body. As a result of this, an increased intake of alcohol can interfere with the way the liver metabolizes medications. This can affect the medication’s efficacy or cause increased side effects.
When paired with alcohol, certain medications can be harmful to the liver, even at regular doses. An example of this is acetaminophen, a common over-the-counter medication used to treat fever and pain. You should consult a pharmacist on the compatibility between your medication and alcohol and refrain from drinking until then.
Natural health products can also interact with alcohol or be harmful to the liver. Ask your pharmacist before consuming.
Alcohol and diseases
Drinking, especially regular or excessive drinking, can aggravate certain illnesses. For example:
- Diabetics who drink even small amounts of alcohol can suffer from hypoglycemia (when blood sugar levels dip too low);
- Alcohol makes you urinate more, which can cause dehydration and aggravate certain diseases, such as heart failure;
- Alcohol use can increase the likelihood of seizures;
- High blood pressure can be harder to control because alcohol increases water retention, leading to increased blood pressure;
- Alcohol can aggravate mental health problems.
What’s more, the medication prescribed to treat these diseases may also interact with alcohol.
Everyone reacts to alcohol differently, especially those with health issues. There is no way to determine a safe quantity of alcohol that would allow you to avoid these side effects. Therefore, if your pharmacist tells you to refrain from drinking during your treatment, be sure to heed the advice.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.