Substance Use

Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Antibiotics? Risks & Side Effects

man sleeping after mixing antibiotics and alcohol

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Combining alcohol with types of antibiotics can be risky, so it’s best to know the potential dangers when using them together. Alcohol might interact with some common antibiotics, reducing their effectiveness or leading to uncomfortable side effects.

In certain situations, drinking alcohol while on antibiotics can even result in severe health issues. It’s always wise to consult a healthcare professional to determine if it’s safe to consume alcohol while taking antibiotics.

Many drug interactions can lead to stomach issues and feelings of nausea. It’s essential to recognize which antibiotics should not be mixed with alcohol. 

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How Alcohol Affects Antibiotics

Antibiotics are key tools in fighting infections and diseases. They function by specifically targeting bacteria that cause infections while sparing healthy cells. This process involves antibiotics attaching to the bacterial cell wall, disrupting its protein production, crucial for the bacteria’s survival. (1)

Antibiotics hinder harmful bacteria’s ability to reproduce and cause disease in our bodies, but they can also affect our immune system. Overusing antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance or adverse antibiotic interactions. (2)

As for alcohol’s impact on your body, it involves a compound called acetaldehyde. Alcohol is broken down into this chemical, which causes DNA damage that is challenging for the body to repair. When DNA isn’t functioning properly, cells struggle to grow and repair, ultimately affecting the body’s ability to heal itself. (3)

Is it Safe to Mix Alcohol With Antibiotics?

The National Library of Medicine report states that warning labels about mixing alcohol with antibiotics are inconsistent. However, many mention potential liver damage from drinking alcohol.

Others mention these potential side effects of mixing the two drugs: (4)

  • Flushing
  • Headache
  • Nausea

In general, alcohol can interfere with how your body responds to medication, potentially making it less effective or speeding up the rate at which you metabolize it. This interference can reduce the effectiveness of the antibiotic or expedite its metabolism within your system. 

As a result, this interference may heighten the risk of experiencing side effects or even render the medication ineffective.

Excessive alcohol consumption while on antibiotics can lead to stomach discomfort and headaches, potentially impeding your ability to adhere to the prescribed dosage. It’s essential to exercise caution and follow safety guidelines when considering alcohol in combination with antibiotics.

Common Side Effects and Reactions

Antibiotics often come with advisories cautioning against the intake of alcoholic beverages. Unfortunately, more information is needed regarding the concurrent use of both substances.

A report published in the National Library of Medicine advises that you avoid mixing alcohol with these antibiotics:

  • Metronidazole (Flagyl): This antibiotic treats various infections, including dental and vaginal infections. Combining metronidazole with alcohol can result in severe side effects such as nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, and a strong flushing reaction. It’s generally advisable to avoid alcohol during and after metronidazole, even for several days. (5)
  • Tinidazole (Tindamax): Similar to metronidazole, tinidazole is prescribed for bacterial infections. When mixed with alcohol, it can lead to nausea, vomiting, headaches, and a rapid heartbeat. It’s wise to refrain from alcohol while on this antibiotic and for a period following treatment. (6)
  • Linezolid (Zyvox): Linezolid is an antibiotic used for specific drug-resistant infections. Combining it with alcohol can increase blood pressure, leading to headaches, flushing, and palpitations. Avoiding alcohol during treatment is recommended. (7)
  • Sulfamethoxazole/Trimethoprim (Bactrim, Septra): This combination antibiotic treats various bacterial infections. Alcohol can interfere with the antibiotic’s effectiveness and cause side effects such as upset stomach, headache, and an increased heart rate. It’s best to avoid alcohol during the medication period. (8)
  • Isoniazid (Nydrazid): Used to treat tuberculosis, isoniazid can potentially lead to liver damage. When combined with alcohol, the risk of liver damage intensifies. It’s important to avoid alcohol during isoniazid treatment. (9)
  • Doxycycline: Alcohol may reduce the effectiveness of doxycycline while increasing the likelihood of stomach discomfort, nausea, and dizziness. Though the side effects are generally mild, it’s best to minimize alcohol consumption during this antibiotic course. (10)
  • Cefotetan (Cefotan): This antibiotic can react with alcohol, causing severe nausea, vomiting, headache, and an increased heart rate. It’s crucial to abstain from alcohol while taking cefotetan and for some time after the course. (11)
  • Ethionamide (Trecator): Ethionamide can cause liver problems when used to treat tuberculosis. Combining it with alcohol can escalate the risk of liver damage, so it’s advisable to avoid alcohol during the treatment. (12)

Some evidence suggests that the effectiveness of doxycycline may be lessened in individuals with chronic alcoholism. (10)

Alcohol and antidepressants can interact, potentially causing increased drowsiness, impaired coordination, mood changes, a higher risk of addiction, reduced antidepressant effectiveness, and, in some cases, overdose risk. 

For these reasons, people taking antidepressants are often advised to limit or avoid alcohol consumption due to the effects of alcohol.

What Antibiotics Can You Drink Alcohol With?

According to the same report, the available data shows that these medications are safe to use with alcohol: (13)

  • Oral penicillins
  • Cefdinir
  • Cefpodoxime
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Azithromycin
  • Tetracycline
  • Nitrofurantoin
  • Secnidazole
  • Tinidazole (Tindamax)
  • Fluconazole
  • Sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim

There are no warnings about mixing alcohol with:

  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Amoxicillin

How Alcohol Consumption Affects Healing

Alcohol consumption can significantly impact the body’s ability to heal, affecting various aspects of the healing process. Here is how alcoholic drinks risk the effectiveness of antibiotics.

  1. Delayed Wound Healing: Alcohol impairs the body’s ability to heal wounds efficiently and can cause harmful interactions. It can lead to delayed clot formation, hinder the body’s ability to combat infections, and reduce the production of essential growth factors necessary for wound healing. This delay can be especially concerning for individuals recovering from surgery or injuries. (14)
  2. Suppressed Immune Response: Excessive alcohol consumption weakens the immune system. This suppression can make the body more vulnerable to infections related to surgical wounds or injuries. A compromised immune system is less effective at combating harmful microorganisms, potentially leading to prolonged recovery periods. (15)
  3. Reduced Nutrient Absorption: Alcohol can interfere with nutrient absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. This disruption limits the availability of essential vitamins and minerals needed for tissue repair and healing. Consequently, healing processes can be compromised due to inadequate nutritional support.
  4. Increased Inflammation: While moderate alcohol consumption may have anti-inflammatory effects, excessive or chronic alcohol use can lead to chronic inflammation. Inflammation is a crucial aspect of the healing process, but chronic inflammation can disrupt the balance and potentially hinder recovery.
  5. Medication Interactions: Alcohol can interact with medications commonly prescribed during recovery, affecting their effectiveness and recovery time, or leading to unwanted side effects. It’s essential to consult with healthcare providers about alcohol’s compatibility with specific medications to avoid potential complications.
  6. Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, causing the body to lose fluids. Dehydration can hinder healing by reducing blood flow, increasing the risk of urinary tract infections, and delaying the removal of waste products from damaged tissues. (16)

What to Do if You’ve Had a Drink While On Antibiotics

When it comes to drinking alcohol while on antibiotics, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer due to the variety of medications and their potential effects. In many cases, having a glass of wine or beer with a meal is usually safe when taking antibiotics.

However, it’s essential to consult your doctor because certain medicines may lead to side effects like an upset stomach or reduced antibiotic effectiveness when combined with alcohol. By having this conversation with your healthcare provider, you can reduce the risk of possible issues and make sure the antibiotics work as they should.

Struggling to Control the Amount of Alcohol You Drink?

It is important to take control of your relationship with alcohol if it has become a problem. If you feel that your drinking has become more frequent or intense than comfortable, it’s time to reach out for support.

Receiving help is an important step in addressing and managing substance abuse. Fortunately, many treatment options are available depending on individual needs and circumstances, from inpatient and outpatient therapy to support groups.

Your doctor or healthcare provider can offer medical advice or refer you to organizations that specialize in treating people with substance abuse, where trained professionals will create a personalized plan tailored to your recovery goals.

Zinnia Health provides personalized addiction recovery plans catered to fit your unique needs. They understand that each person’s situation is different and will create a treatment plan around your individual goals. To find an addiction recovery center near you, contact Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439.


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