Is It Safe to Mix Copaxone and Alcohol?

Medically reviewed by Alan Carter, PharmD on November 9, 2015Written by Susan J. Bliss, RPh, MBA on November 9, 2015

What Is Copaxone?

Glatiramer acetate injection (Copaxone) is used to treat relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). Copaxone helps block certain white blood cells called “T cells” that can damage the myelin. Myelin is the natural protein that wraps around and protects nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord.

Copaxone doesn’t have any known drug interactions. If you’re taking other drugs, always tell your doctor and pharmacist. If drug interactions with Copaxone are discovered, your doctor and pharmacist will learn about them, and they’ll advise you on how this may affect your treatment. Copaxone doesn’t interact with alcohol, but it may not be safe to drink while taking this drug.

Alcohol and Multiple Sclerosis

Alcohol can interact with multiple sclerosis (MS). Alcohol affects your central nervous system, and it’s a depressant. Alcohol can affect your mood or sleep. It can also affect your balance, movement, and sensation.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, people with MS have reported that just one drink can temporarily affect their balance and coordination. Regular or excessive consumption of alcohol can also cause neurological symptoms that are similar to MS symptoms.

MS is commonly treated with more than one drug. If you take other medications for your MS, like drugs to relieve spasms, help your sleep, or to treat bladder problems, they may be affected by alcohol. Additionally, it may be difficult to decide if worsening symptoms are caused by your MS or by the alcohol.

Copaxone Side Effects and Alcohol

Although Copaxone doesn’t interact with alcohol, your side effects could be worse if you combine the two. For example, many people who use Copaxone report flushing or redness in their face or body. Alcohol also causes flushing in many people. If you drink while taking this drug, you could be more likely to experience flushing and redness in your face.

More serious side effects of Copaxone can include:

  • increased heart rate
  • chest pain
  • anxiety
  • nausea
  • breathing problems

Copaxone can also suppress your body’s ability to fight off infection. These side effects can occur at unpredictable times. You may experience side effects weeks or months after you start using the drug.

Alcohol could increase these side effects. For example, alcohol pulls water out of your body, which can change your blood pressure or heart rate. This can also make it more difficult to fight off infections.

Takeaway

If you have a special occasion coming up and want to enjoy a toast with family and friends, talk to your doctor first about your risks of consuming alcohol with Copaxone. The decision is up to every individual.

If you’re injecting Copaxone every day, you may experience daily side effects and the risk may be greater. If you inject Copaxone three times a week, your side effects may occur on those days of the week. The way your body processes Copaxone isn’t well understood. It’s also difficult to predict how your body will react to alcohol when you have MS.

If your side effects from Copaxone are difficult to manage, your doctor may be able to change your dose schedule. If this drug doesn’t completely manage your MS symptoms, you may need additional treatment or you may want to talk about other treatments that may help with your MS.

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