Most cough and cold medications are over-the-counter (OTC) drugs intended to treat cold symptoms, such as NyQuil. However, some people—particularly teenagers—use these medicines to achieve a high. This can be risky enough on its own, but combining NyQuil with other substances, including alcohol, can be dangerous. Therefore, it’s essential to know and consider the risks of using NyQuil and alcohol in combination.
What Is NyQuil?
NyQuil is a common brand-name medication that is available OTC. If a person has a cough or cold, the active ingredients in this medication (or its generic equivalents) are meant to remedy sleep problems. There are a few different forms of NyQuil, and they all consist of different drugs in varying amounts. Overall, however, NyQuil usually includes some combination of the following:
- Acetaminophen, a pain reliever (e.g., Tylenol)
- Dextromethorphan (DXM), a cough suppressant
- Doxylamine, an antihistamine that can be used to relieve allergies or sleep issues
- Some NyQuil also contains a significant amount of alcohol—10 percent alcohol by volume
Is it Safe to Combine NyQuil and Alcohol?
It’s generally not a good idea to combine the use of NyQuil and alcohol. Because alcohol interacts with many drugs and NyQuil contains multiple components, a person who does so is at a higher risk of experiencing drug interactions if they are used together. Therefore, it is not advisable to drink alcohol when using NyQuil, especially for those taking a formulation of NyQuil that contains alcohol.
NyQuil also contains acetaminophen and doxylamine, and both can adversely interact with alcohol. Two highly significant drug interactions between NyQuil and alcohol include the following:
Alcohol and acetaminophen: Acetaminophen can cause damage to the liver when used in excess. Taking acetaminophen with alcohol, even in low doses, can cause severe liver damage.
Alcohol and doxylamine: Doxylamine is a nervous system depressant and can make a person extremely sleepy. When you take it with alcohol, the side effects are exacerbated.
NyQuil and Alcohol Side Effects
NyQuil and alcohol have many side effects in common. The side effects may be even more severe if a person takes them together because of the known drug interactions between the two.
Common side effects of NyQuil and alcohol may include the following:
- Profound drowsiness
- Impaired coordination
- Impaired judgment
- Increased risk of dependence
Some of the substances in NyQuil have side effects of their own, and these can be exacerbated when a person drinks alcohol. For instance, in excessive doses, DXM can cause hallucinations, which is one of the reasons why DXM is misused, as the effect is similar to being high on LSD or ketamine.
NyQuil and Alcohol Abuse
If a person consumes more than one drink a day for a woman and more than two drinks a day for a man, they are at risk for alcohol dependence and addiction. Alcohol addiction is a significant issue worldwide, and combining it with NyQuil contributes to this problem.
Cough and cold medicine such as NyQuil can be abused too, and not only because NyQuil may contain alcohol. In excessive doses, some of the ingredients in NyQuil, such as DXM, can affect the brain’s reward center, inducing feelings of pleasure and increasing a person’s risk of dependence and addiction.
In fact, the problem of cough and cold medicine abuse among teens has become so significant that Arizona, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Virginia, and Washington have now banned the sale of DXM to people under 18 years old.
Because the abuse of cough and cold medicines such as NyQuil is a relatively new behavior, the long-term effects of NyQuil misuse are not known. Nonetheless, the long-term effects of alcohol abuse are very well known. It is known to result in addiction, brain and heart damage, a compromised immune system, and an increased risk of several forms of cancer, as well as a wide variety of other health complications.
Getting Help for Alcohol Dependence
Drinking and NyQuil in combination can be hazardous and induce a wide range of effects. Individuals who have difficulty reducing or stopping alcohol use are urged to seek professional treatment as soon as possible.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery specialize in substance abuse rehab programs that consist of numerous evidence-based therapeutic services and activities. These include medical detox, psychotherapy, individual and family counseling, group support, relapse prevention, art and music therapy, and many others.