There are a lot of things that we consume that should not be mixed with alcohol. Alcohol can intensify or weaken other substances that you may have taken. It is not just illicit drugs or certain prescribed medications that should not be mixed with alcohol.
It Can Be Dangerous
Obviously, it can be dangerous to drink while taking a medication like a benzodiazepine. The effects of the drug and alcohol together can easily put someone into a black out state. A black out is when enough alcohol, or other substances, is consumed to create some form of memory loss. This can lead to lowered inhibitions, hinders impulse control, and affects decision-making. It is also dangerous to mix alcohol and illicit drugs. Alcohol is a depressant. When mixed with other depressants you are slowing your heart rate. Your heart rate can get so low that you just pass out. Passing out from drinking too much is a sign that your body has consumed too much.
There are other medications that you may have never thought of having adverse reactions with alcohol. Drinking while taking certain heartburn medications can intensify the effect of alcohol. Drinking should be avoided when on a high blood pressure regimen. Mixing alcohol and blood pressure medication, for example alpha-blockers or vasodilators, you may experience orthostasis. Orthostasis is low blood pressure that occurs when you stand up from a sitting or lying down position. It can make you feel dizzy. This is a concern with other patients because orthostasis can lead to a fall or possible injury, especially in older patients.
One that may be surprising is herbal and dietary supplements. Many people believe these “natural products” are safe to use without restrictions, but this is not always the case. For example, certain herbs like St. John’s Wort may interact with alcohol. You may be at risk for additive drowsiness, liver damage, impaired breathing, or other side effects, depending upon the dietary supplement.
How Do I Know What is Safe?
Talking to your doctor or pharmacist when receiving any sort of medications is the first place to start. When beginning any sort of medication regimen is it imperative you are honest with the prescriber. If you do have drinking habits or an alcohol abuse problem be honest about it. It can affect what medication you receive so you are taking the safest medication possible. With every medication you get, either prescribed or OTC (over-the-counter), there are warning labels on them. Most will tell you if drinking alcohol can have an adverse effect.
The problems are alcohol can increase certain effects that medications can have. It can also decrease the effectiveness of some medications. Another issue with abusing alcohol while on certain medications is drinking often can lead to forgetting to take your medications or not taking them at the time you need to. Some medications are time sensitive, like birth control. If you do not take that around the same time everyday or forget to take it all together it can adversely affect the effectiveness. Do your research. Take time to look into what you are taking and the possible effects drinking can have. You need to know what is safe.
Why Drugs and Alcohol Don’t Mix
Certain medications already contain alcohol, some up to 10 percent. Cough syrup and laxatives have some of the highest alcohol content. Also, many popular painkillers, cough and cold, and allergy medications contain more than one ingredient that doesn’t mix well with alcohol. These interactions can be harmful to the body. Both medications or drugs, illegal and legal, and alcohol go through the liver. Certain medications, or drugs, and alcohol can end up competing for liver enzymes. Medicines, drugs, and alcohol need to be broken down and processed, but when you throw too much at the liver it will take more time for anything to go through. You are making your liver work harder.
The effects that alcohol itself has on the liver can make it harder for medications to be processed. When chronically abusing alcohol you can develop certain types of liver disease. A fatty liver is the first stage of liver disease. That can lead to alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis, both causing damage to liver cells. This is important because the more your liver is damaged, it can inhibit what kind of medications you can take going forward. Drinking too much on its own is dangerous and harmful, but adding in the task of medications without cause or concern can lead to potentially fatal situations. If you or anyone you know is mixing medications and alcohol or has a problem with alcohol itself- reach out.