Alcohol and medication can be a dangerous mix. Doctors recommend avoiding alcohol while taking many drugs.
The biggest concern is that taking alcohol with medications might increase the risk of unsafe side effects.
Here, we’ll discuss the safety of mixing alcohol and antibiotics. We’ll also explain what effects alcohol can have on your body’s ability to fight an infection.
Alcohol doesn’t make antibiotics less effective, but consuming alcohol — especially if you drink too much — might increase your chance of experiencing certain side effects.
For some antibiotics, you should never consume alcohol while you take them.
Combining these antibiotics and alcohol can cause a potentially dangerous reaction.
Metronidazole, tinidazole, cefoperazone, cefotetan, and ketoconazole
Drinking alcohol while taking these drugs can cause:
Don’t drink alcohol before, during, or up to 3 days after taking these drugs.
Drinking alcohol while taking this medication can cause:
Isoniazid and linezolid
Drinking alcohol with these medications can cause side effects such as:
- liver damage
- high blood pressure
Doxycycline and erythromycin
Drinking alcohol while taking these drugs may make these antibiotics less effective.
General side effects
The specific side effects that an antibiotic can cause depends on the drug. However, some common side effects of antibiotics include:
Alcohol can also cause side effects. These can include:
- an upset stomach
- digestive problems, such as stomach pain, diarrhea, and ulcers
Signs of a negative alcohol-antibiotic reaction include:
- flushing (reddening and warming of your skin)
- severe headache
- racing heart rate
In most cases, these side effects go away on their own. If you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency services number.
What to do
The warning label on your antibiotic should include information about alcohol use.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure about the details of your medications. They may tell you that an occasional drink is OK. But that likely depends on your age, overall health, and the type of drug you’re taking.
If your doctor tells you that you shouldn’t drink alcohol, ask how long you should wait before drinking again. You may need to wait at least 72 hours after finishing your course of antibiotics before having any alcohol.
Listening to your doctor or pharmacist’s advice can help you avoid the effects of an alcohol-drug interaction.
Usually, drinking alcohol won’t keep your antibiotic from working to treat your infection. Still, it can interfere with your infection’s healing in other ways.
Getting enough rest and eating a nutritious diet both help you recover from sickness or infection. Drinking alcohol can interfere with these factors.
For instance, drinking alcohol can disrupt your sleep patterns. It can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Alcohol can also stop your body from absorbing vital nutrients. It can increase your blood sugar levels and sap your energy levels.
All of these factors can reduce your body’s ability to heal from an infection. Acute alcohol use, binge drinking, and chronic alcohol use can all be harmful, whether you take medication or not.
Keep in mind that alcohol isn’t just limited to beer, wine, liquor, and mixed drinks. It can be found in some mouthwashes and cold medications, too.
Check the ingredient labels on these and other products if you’ve had an alcohol-antibiotic reaction in the past. Ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to use these products while you take an antibiotic.
Doctors often prescribe antibiotics for a short time. In many cases, you only need to take antibiotics for a week or two to fully recover from an infection.
Mixing alcohol with antibiotics is rarely a good idea. Both alcohol and antibiotics can cause side effects in your body, and drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics can raise your risk of these harmful effects.
If the label on your drug says not to drink alcohol during treatment, follow that advice.
Keep in mind that antibiotics are often prescribed on a short-term basis. Consider waiting until you’re off the medications to have your next drink. It may reduce the chance of complications or side effects brought on by antibiotics.
Avoiding alcohol will likely help you get over your infection more quickly anyway.
Talk with your doctor and pharmacist if you’re taking an antibiotic. They can talk to you about alcohol use and your medications.