Harmful Interactions – Mixing Alcohol With Medicines

shotWhen discussing mixing alcohol with medication the majority of people assume this direction is with regards to prescription medications. That is not the case, however, there are a number of over the counter medications that can cause reactions when mixed with alcohol.

Most people don’t take the risks seriously, because a lot of people have mixed meds and alcohol and not suffered any adverse effects. That doesn’t mean your liver hasn’t been left with long lasting damage, though. Additionally, mixing alcohol with medicine can lead to dizziness, confusion, overdoses and in some cases- death.

This doesn’t happen every time to every person who mixes concoctions, but it could happen at any time depending on a number of variables.

If you drink frequently you are more likely to have a negative interaction with medication, and vice versa.

Elderly people are especially at risk, as they develop chronic diseases and take regular medication.

Additionally, medication sticks around in your system far longer than you think. If you’re unsure look at the manufacturer’s website to check for the half-life of your medication. Many common medications take as many as 3 or 4 days to be completely out of your system.

The following information is based on this fact sheet that the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism. It is important to note, however, that these are not the only medications that can have adverse effects when mixed with alcohol- this is a list of the most common medications we take today that can lead to adverse effects.



Also known by name brands such as Advil, Tylenol, Aleve, Motrin and Excedrin.

Mixing acetaminophen with alcohol can lead to severe liver damage, if you drink 3 or more alcohol drinks in conjunction with this medication. Drinks quite commonly pop a couple of acetaminophen after drinking in order to stave off a hangover- this in itself can lead to an upset stomach or worse: ulcers and bleeding. With particular non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like naproxen and ibuprofen, there are already potential side effects relating to upset stomachs- but that risk rises as you drink while taking these medications.

Prescription Pain Killers

The common ones being Vicodin, Demerol and Percocet.

This is a common way to abuse painkillers, in order to boost your buzz. However, you could die by doing this. For those who already suffer side effects with prescription pain killer’s alcohol will only serve to exacerbate them. Mixing pain meds with alcohol can leave you feeling dizzy and drowsy, slowed breathing, short memory, unusual behaviour, and impaired motor control. This can lead to a number of other dangers in addition to the immediate health impact.

Blood Clot Medication

Namely: Coumadin (warfarin).

This is a common medication for the elderly, but the dangers of mixing with alcohol are deadly. It can cause internal bleeding, and in the event of heavy drinking can lead to blood clots, strokes, or heart attacks.

Blood Pressure Medication

To name a few: Norvasc, Losartan, Lopressor, Norvasc.

As well as drowsiness, dizziness and the risk of fainting- mixing blood clot meds with alcohol can lead to a number of heart problems, namely arrhythmia.

Cholesterol Medication

Niaspan, Zocor, Crestor, Vytorin, Lipitor and a whole host of other medications.

All medications relating to cholesterol can cause liver damage, some can increase bleeding in the stomach, while some will leave you itching.

Diabetes Medications

Micronase, Diabinese, Gylnase, Glucotrol, Orinase and more.

Drinking while taking these medications makes it far more difficult to control diabetes. It can cause dangerous low levels of blood sugar. Additionally, it can bring on flushing, which leaves you feeling nauseous, vomiting, with headaches, a racing heartbeat and issues with your blood pressure.

Allergy Meds

In addition to the Benadryl’s and Claritin’s of the world- cold and flu meds like Sudafed Sinus, Tylenol Cold and Flu, and more fall into this category.

Many of these medications cause drowsiness, alcohol exacerbates this. Additionally, many of these medications also contain acetaminophen which means they have the added side effects of damaging your liver.

Cough Meds

Robitussin C and Robitussin Cough are common types.

There are been an alarming emergence of “Lean” abuse in recent years, which has been popularized by a number of young popstars. This is mixing a codeine based cough syrup with candy and lemonade and lime soda. This can lead to serious, even life threatening, side effects as it increases the risk of overdose.

Anxiety & Depression Medication

Klonopin, Valium, Xanas, Paxil, Ativan, Prozac, St John’s Wort, Nardil, Effexor, Zoloft, Seroquel, the list goes on and on.

The majority of these meds come with side effects of varying degrees. Mixing them with alcohol not only renders them useless, but leaves you at greater risk of overdose. It can impair your motor control, cause memory problems, leave you feeling drowsy and dizzy, and impair your breathing.

Additionally, it can leave you feeling hopeless, and more depressed than you were originally.

Attention Deficit Medication

Ritalin, Focalin, Adderall, Strattera to name but a few.

Mixing these with alcohol can actually make concentration incredibly difficult. You can be left feeling dizzy and drowsy, with liver damage and an increased risk of heart problems.

Indigestion Medication

Zantac, Reglan, Axid and more.

This could leave you with a racing heart and a lower alcohol tolerance. Reglan and alcohol can have an impact on your blood pressure.

Sleep Aids

Sominex, Lunesta, Ambien, Valerian, Lavender, Chamomile and more.

All of these are designed to make you feel sleepy to enable you to get to sleep and rest throughout the night. However, combining these with alcohol can cause overdoses, as well as impairing motor control, affecting memory and leading to strange behavior.


It might not seem like a big deal at the time, or it might even appear to be fun, but the long term effects that mixing alcohol and medication can have is dangerous.

It’s important to read the pamphlets that always come with medicine- if something says to avoid alcohol while you are taking it then you should do so.