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Alcohol and drugs do not mix. While most people know that, they often think of illegal drugs in this context, not medications prescribed by a doctor or purchased at the local pharmacy. However, many prescription medications are just as dangerous when mixed with alcohol as “street” drugs.
Keep in mind that, while most medications will explicitly warn users about the potential harm of using alcohol while taking the product, that is not true of every drug. However, just because there is no warning on the label or in the accompanying package insert does not therefore mean it is safe to drink while taking it. If you have any questions about whether or not you can drink while taking a medication – any medication – always discuss the issue with your doctor or pharmacist. Even though light drinking is permissible while taking certain drugs, you must feel confident you will not drink more than what is allowed. Sometimes, if a doctor prescribes a light does of a medication, it’s safe to drink while taking it. If they then increase your dose, that may mean that it is no longer safe to drink as much as you once did while on that medication. If you worry you could end up drinking more than is safe, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether while on the medication. You can also ask your doctor about switching medications or decreasing your dose for certain conditions if that’s the case.
What Are Prescription Drugs?
Prescription drugs are medications requiring a healthcare provider’s prescription to obtain. The prescribing doctor names not only the drug involved but also the specific dosage, amount of drug dispensed, and frequency of administration. The pharmacy filling the order includes other information, such as the medication’s expiration date. Many prescription drugs should not be used in combination with alcohol. Reading the medical literature accompanying the prescription or asking the pharmacist about interactions is imperative before consuming any amount of alcohol while taking prescription drugs as effects could range from mild to deadly.
Use prescription drugs only to treat the condition for which they were prescribed; it’s illegal to do otherwise. It is also against the law to sell or give prescription drugs to another person. Additionally, do not use such drugs after the prescription has expired.
An over the counter (OTC) drug does not require a prescription, and is available either in a drugstore, supermarket, or similar retailer or online. However, just because a drug is available OTC does not mean it is safe to use with alcohol. Many common OTC drugs, including the pain reliever acetaminophen, marketed under the brand name Tylenol, can cause serious health problems when combined with excessive drinking. There are also herbal remedies that should not be used with alcohol, so do your research before drinking while taking any type of medication.
Types of Prescription Medications
These drugs are used for treating moderate to severe pain and were originally derived from the poppy plant. Opioids are often abused by those seeking to get high, and are extremely addictive. The Opioid Epidemic in the US has killed thousands of people. Some of the most commonly prescribed opioids include oxycodone, sold under the brand name OxyContin; hydrocodone, marketed as Vicodin; and oxymorphone, marketed as Opana.
These medications are used to lift mood in those dealing with depression symptoms and are also used for anxiety treatment. These days, the most common antidepressant drugs prescribed are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). They work by maintaining neurotransmitter levels and aid in mood regulation. The best-known SSRI antidepressants include those drugs marketed under the brand names Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro and Zoloft.
Stimulants are prescribed to increase alertness and boost energy. They are often used by children and adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Less often, they are prescribed for those who have not responded well to antidepressants. These drugs are often habit-forming. Commonly prescribed stimulants include amphetamines, dextroamphetamine, lisdexamfetamine, and methylphenidate.
Anti-seizure drugs are used most often to control symptoms of epilepsy. It’s not unusual for those diagnosed with epilepsy to require more than one prescription medication to keep seizures at bay. Medications used to prevent seizures include carbamazepine, gabapentin, phenobarbital, phenytoin, topiramate, and valproic acid.
These drugs prevent or slow down bacterial growth, and are used in treating a vast array of conditions. They are not effective against viruses or cold germs. Classes of commonly prescribed antibiotics include penicillin, tetracyclines, cephalosporins, and aminoglycosides.
Sleeping Pills :
Also known as sedatives, these drugs are designed to help those with insomnia attain a good night’s sleep. However, mixing sleeping pills with alcohol is very dangerous and can prove fatal. Some of the most common sleeping pills include Ambien, Lunesta, Restoril, Silenor, and Sonata.
Also known as neuroleptics, these medications are prescribed for those diagnosed with psychotic illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They control symptoms including hallucinations and mania, along with deep depressions. Commonly prescribed antipsychotic drugs include Abilify, Clozaril, Geodon, Risperidone, and Seroquel.
How Can Alcohol Affect My Medication?
Alcohol consumption can affect or interact with medication and cause various side effects. In fact, increasing the severity of side effects already associated with the medication you are taking is one of the major concerns.
Other ways alcohol may affect medication include:
Even the smallest amount of alcohol combined with other medication can make driving or operating any sort of machinery dangerous and you don’t have to drink alcohol at the same time as taking the medication to experience malign effects. Many medications work on a long-term basis, so even if you took the drug in the morning or even the previous day, a nighttime drink may have deleterious effects.
Factors that Mean You Should be Extra Careful
Some people may find themselves especially vulnerable to alcohol, and that means any interactions between alcohol and medications are likely to cause problems. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), alcohol may affect older people differently than younger people, and the elderly may find themselves getting drunk after consuming far less alcohol than formerly affected them. Women are usually more affected by alcohol than men due to smaller body size. Higher blood alcohol concentrations appear in women’s bodies after consuming the same amount of alcohol as the average man.
While it is risky for anyone to combine alcohol with prescription drugs, it is especially dangerous for older adults and women. The former are more likely to trip or fall while under the influence, increasing the likelihood of fractures. Because older people tend to take more medications than younger adults, the odds of having a reaction or interaction are higher as well. Women especially may experience long-term damage to the liver, brain, and other vital organs.
Medications You Shouldn’t Take with Alcohol
Drinking while taking some medications definitely falls under the header of “not the smartest thing to do”. However, drinking while using certain pharmaceuticals can actually cause serious injury or death.
Never consume alcohol if taking the following types of prescription medications:
Possible Medicine Interactions
Discuss it With Your Doctor
If you drink and your doctor prescribes medication for any reason, discuss your alcohol consumption with your physician. If interactions between alcohol and the medication are truly dangerous, your doctor should let you know about these extreme interactions. However, with other types of drugs, the doctor may not discuss possible interactions unless the patient brings it up. Based on your medical history, you may also become more affected by combining alcohol with a specific prescription drug.
Also, let your doctor know if you experience difficulties in stopping or limiting your drinking. While your doctor can recommend appropriate treatment or counseling for these issues, he or she may also want to substitute one medication for another if the initial drug has more potential consequences when mixed with alcohol than the other.