Motion Sickness medications are sold under several brand names including Dramamine, Gravol, and Scopolamine. They are commonly recommended for incidental use, such as for an afternoon boat ride, a trip to the amusement park, or a long car or train trip. They are used to suppress one's inclination to feel nauseated or even vomit. Some people, such as naval personnel, might use a more long-term solution, such as the Scopolamine patch, since they cannot function in their job without daily doses.

When motion-sickness medication is mixed with alcoholic beverages, huge issues can ensue. Both drugs can induce drowsiness and disorient users. When they are mixed, the effects are multiplied.

What Are Motion Sickness Medications?

Motion Sickness medications, also known as antiemetics, are drugs that suppress nausea and vomiting. They are popular with people who suffer motion sickness due to travel in a vehicle or boat, causing nausea and discomfort. They are also prescribed for those with illnesses where nausea/vomiting are characteristic or common symptoms. Even certain medications can induce vomiting in some patients, so a patient may be prescribed an antiemetic to quell those unpleasant side-effects.

Since these medications are prescribed for different circumstances, they operate in different ways. Some antihistamines operate as antiemetics and are prescribed specifically for motion sickness. Other antiemetics work to suppress certain neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine antagonists are prescribed for chemotherapy patients who frequently experience nausea and vomiting. Serotonin receptor antagonists are recommended for patients suffering cyclic vomiting syndrome. Pregnant women can also take antiemetics to suppress morning sickness.

Antiemetics include over-the-counter medications such as Pepto Bismol, Kaopectate, and Bismatrol. These coat the stomach and are often helpful when patients are suffering from a stomach flu.

Common Side Effects of Motion Sickness Medication

Though many of these medications are sold over the counter and are quite common, they are not totally benign. There are side-effects that people must be aware of prior to taking them. Furthermore, the many different types of antiemetics tend to have different side effects because they function differently in the body.

Ondansetron ODT, for instance, blocks serotonin receptors and is used to treat chemotherapy patients, and others.

Its side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath

Dimenhydrinate, commonly known by the brand name Dramamine or Gravol, is an antihistamine medication that is used to prevent motion-sickness.

Common side-effects from this medication include:

  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness

Other medications may have less or more intense side effects, but it is impossible to know before taking it exactly how a drug will affect you.

Interactions of Alcohol and Motion Sickness Medication

Alcohol is a powerful central nervous system depressant. It slows reaction times, impairs judgment, and causes harm to every system in the human body. It is particularly dangerous when used in excess or in conjunction with other drugs, especially others that impact the CNS. Motion Sickness medications are no exception.

Known, common side-effects of motion sickness medications include drowsiness and dizziness. When combined with alcohol, those effects are nearly always magnified. Thus, mixing alcohol with motion sickness medications is a very bad idea. While users may take motion sickness pills to enjoy a boat ride, they should not also drink throughout the day. The resulting disorientation could be very dangerous. Furthermore, users should never attempt to drive if they've mixed motion sickness pills with a drink or more. If you plan to take motion sickness meds during a cruise or over an extended period of time, you should always let your doctor know what level of drinking you expect to engage in during this time. They may recommend a different type of medication based on that information.

Mixing alcohol with motion sickness drugs such as Dramamine can result in very dire effects, including overdose.

Symptoms of a Dramamine overdose include, but are not limited to:

  • Flushed face
  • Pupil dilation
  • Excitation, hyperactivity
  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Slurred speech
  • Seizure
  • Coma
  • Difficulty walking including stumbling and staggering

Avoid Motion Sickness Without Medications

For those who wish to avoid motion-sickness but who also want to enjoy a cocktail, there are alternative ways to deal with the nausea sensations. You should at least consider trying to avoid sickness without medication unless your symptoms are severe or none of these options work for you.

Here are a few simple ways people mitigate motion-sickness without resorting to medications:

  • Eat small, regular meals
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Shift the body into turns
  • Be aware of triggers for motion-sickness
  • Sit facing forward on a train or boat
  • Avoid reading while in transit
  • Practice deep breathing – approximately six breaths per minute
  • Try ginger lozenges, tea, etc. to prevent nausea

Alcohol Poisoning and Motion Sickness Medication Overdose

For those who are addicted, alcohol poisoning is a constant threat. In fact, some alcoholics induce poisoning as part of their regular drinking. Often, an alcoholic will need increasingly large amounts of alcohol to satisfy their rising tolerance level. Soon, their regular drinking becomes problematic, as their body cannot handle the toxicity levels needed to meet the drinker's rising tolerance levels.

When these types of medications enter the mix, the danger only increases. While not a common practice, some alcoholics may seek motion-sickness medications to enhance a limited alcohol supply.

This is a very high-risk activity and one that can result in a number of dire symptoms, such as:

  • Confusion
  • Coma
  • Slurred speech
  • Disorientation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Extreme dizziness
  • Seizure
  • Death


Though not terribly common, some users have reported withdrawal symptoms that result from the cessation of prolonged medication use. In particular, the Scopolamine patch has been known to be problematic.

The Scopolamine patch may be prescribed for people whose motion sickness issues are severe and which interfere with daily activities, including driving. Since their need is so frequent, they wear a transdermal patch to deliver a constant dose of the medication. However, it is also often prescribed for people who plan to go on long cruises or other events that may cause them to experience motion sickness over 3 weeks to a month or more.

Sufferers have indicated the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Migraine
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Psychotic hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions (Rare, but noted possible side effect – Should not be taken if you’ve previously had any psychosis, as it can exacerbate this)

The Scopolamine patch might be the perfect solution for a motion-sickness sufferer who wishes to take a cruise on vacation. However, they should note that the transdermal patch might cause more problems than it solves, and drinking while wearing it will increase any side effects you do experience. Prior to embarking, anyone considering using the patch may wish to experiment with it while under a doctor's supervision first.


Whenever a person experiences an overdose or poisoning from any substance, they should immediately contact healthcare professionals. When that substance is a motion sickness medication, it's advised to discuss the problem with a doctor who may be able to prescribe a lower dosage to help ease their patient off the drug. Withdrawal from these types of medications is rare, but the known cases do not indicate any imminent danger. However, withdrawal patients who experience confusion or dizziness should neither drive nor operate heavy machinery.

Alcohol overdose and withdrawal, on the other hand, pose a great threat to the user. Overdose or poisoning victims are prone to physical instability, vomiting, aggression, and loss of consciousness. When chronically addicted drinkers cease their use, the withdrawal can be very dangerous. In fact, death is one of the many symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

When a drinker decides to stop, it's imperative that they check into a medical detoxification clinic. There, they can receive the anti-anxiety medication they need to maintain suitable blood pressure and they can be monitored for other physical ailments. If you’ve been drinking and taking motion sickness meds together for an extended time, you should let those treating you know. Though withdrawal from this medication is mild, withdrawal from any two substances at one time can greatly increase your symptoms overall. It’s always important to let those treating you know everything that might be in your system when you go into detox.

Upon release from a detoxification clinic, alcoholics need to pursue long-term treatment. That's because it may be easy to stop drinking, but it's quite another thing to attain and maintain sobriety over any significant period of time. Thus, the detoxification clinic should be able to recommend a number of local facilities where the patient can continue on the road to long-term sobriety.