Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is a medication available over-the-counter (OTC) that’s frequently used to treat various symptoms related to allergies. Benadryl effectively reduces many allergy-related symptoms, including rashes and eye throat, and nose irritations. Still, there are potential side effects and adverse outcomes from the combination of alcohol and diphenhydramine.
Although Benadryl does not have adverse effects on the liver, it is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. When used in combination with alcohol, the total impact on the CNS can produce amplified side effects. In some situations, this interaction can lead to adverse outcomes.
Risks of Using Benadryl and Alcohol
Benadryl can cause side effects, including heavy sedation and drowsiness, which can impair coordination and reaction time. Combining Benadryl with alcohol can intensify these side effects and impair a person’s daily functioning. This can be life-threatening if one engages in risky activities, such as driving a motor vehicle or operating heavy machinery.
2. Loss of consciousness
Some individuals are more susceptible than others to losing consciousness when sedated. In these individuals, combining Benadryl and alcohol is more likely to cause a loss of consciousness. This can be detrimental due to the likelihood of falls, other accidents, and injuries.
Benadryl and alcohol are both known to cause dehydration. Combining them can increase the risk of dehydration. This can cause discomfort and exacerbate a hangover.
4. Complications in older persons
Aging impairs the body’s capacity to metabolize alcohol, especially for someone with liver disease. It may remain in the system of an older adult for longer than for a person who is younger. This slowdown increases the time an individual will be at risk of a harmful interaction associated with using Benadryl and alcohol.
5. Learning and memory impairments
Benadryl blocks the action of a neurochemical known as acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is needed for learning and memory, so blocking its action may temporarily impede these processes. Alcohol is also known to inhibit functions related to learning and memory. Again, combining alcohol and Benadryl may have a more significant effect on these two processes.
6. Interactions with other types of medication
Benadryl may interact with other forms of medication, which can intensify side effects. Using these other types of medications and alcohol could also heighten the risk of side effects.
Examples of medicines that may interact with Benadryl include the following:
- Stomach ulcer medications
- Cough and cold medicines
- Other antihistamines
- Diazepam (Valium)
7. Other forms of alcohol
Some types of medication, including cough and cold syrups and laxatives, also include alcohol. They can consist of up to 10% alcohol, which can interact with Benadryl. As a consequence, using Benadryl with these medications, even with minimal amounts of alcohol, may still increase the risk of unwanted side effects.
8. Sex (Male vs. Female)
In general, women are more vulnerable to alcohol-related harm. This is because their bodies usually contain less water, meaning that the same amount of alcohol would be more concentrated in a woman than in a man. Combining Benadryl with alcohol may be particularly dangerous for women, as consuming smaller amounts of alcohol could trigger adverse interaction effects.
Because Benadryl and alcohol both cause drowsiness and sedation, it may seem tempting to exploit this combination as a sleeping aid. However, this can also heighten other adverse side effects that will interfere with sleep, such as nausea and dizziness.
More research is required to determine if mixing Benadryl and alcohol causes dementia. One study found that individuals who take one anticholinergic drug per day for at least three years have an increased risk of dementia. However, it should be noted that this study included all anticholinergic medications in addition to Benadryl.
Another study from 2018 found excessive alcohol use to be associated with a higher risk of dementia. It is possible that using excessive amounts of Benadryl and alcohol over prolonged periods could be associated with an increased dementia risk. However, longitudinal research would be required for individuals who consume high levels of Benadryl and alcohol to know whether this affects dementia.
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