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Mix of alcohol and prescription drugs: the big bet

Many people with drinking problems are also using pills for a variety of reasons. It is a good idea to know the risks involved in mixing alcohol with these medications. Here is a list of some of the results that can be expected when mixing the drink with the pills.


Antibiotics, as we know them, are used to treat infectious diseases. In combination with acute alcohol consumption, some antibiotics can cause nausea, vomiting, headache and, in more extreme cases, seizures. At the very least, drinking alcohol lessens or cancels the effects of the antibiotic. In other words, there is no point in taking antibiotics if you are drinking because the antibiotic will not work and you will not experience any of the benefits of the antibiotic.


Alcoholism and depression often go hand in hand, creating a very good chance of interactions between alcohol and antidepressants. Alcohol increases the sedative effect of tricyclic antidepressants such as Elavil and other similar drugs, which affects the mental abilities necessary for, for example, driving. This is because acute alcohol consumption (drinking regularly) increases the availability of some tricyclics, potentially increasing their sedative effects. There is also a chemical called tyramine, found in some beers and wine that will interact with some antidepressants, causing a dangerous rise in blood pressure and, if it gets high enough, it can lead to a stroke. Even a single drink can set the stage for an interaction like this.

Antidiabetic medication

Oral hypoglycemic medications are prescribed to help lower blood sugar levels in some patients with diabetes. Chronic alcohol use decreases the availability of these necessary medications in your system. Alcohol also interacts with some medications in this class to produce symptoms of nausea and headache. In addition to the possible drug interaction, while moderate amounts of alcohol can cause your blood sugar to spike, too much alcohol can actually lower your blood sugar, sometimes causing it to drop to dangerous levels.

When diabetics encounter severe deviations from correct blood sugar levels, organ degeneration occurs.


Medications such as Benadryl and similar medications in this family are available without a prescription to treat allergic symptoms and insomnia. Alcohol can intensify the sedation caused by some antihistamines, causing slower reactions and poor judgment. These medications can cause excessive dizziness and more severe sedation in older people.

Antipsychotic medications

Drugs like Thorazine, for example, are used to decrease psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations. Acute alcohol use increases the sedative effect of these medications, resulting in coordination problems and life-threatening breathing problems. Also, the combination of chronic alcohol ingestion and antipsychotic drugs can accelerate liver damage.

Anticonvulsant medications

These medications are prescribed primarily to treat epilepsy. Chronic alcohol use can significantly reduce the patient’s protection against epileptic seizures, even during a period of abstinence.

Cardiovascular drugs

These medications include a variety of prescription medications to treat heart problems and circulatory system problems. Acute alcohol use interacts with some of these drugs and causes dizziness or fainting when trying to stand up. These medications include nitroglycerin that is used for angina pectoris and most of the medications that are used to treat high blood pressure.

Chronic alcohol use decreases the high blood pressure medication in your system, reducing its effect and leaving you more vulnerable to the problem that has been taken to alleviate the medication.

Narcotic pain medications

These medications are prescribed for pain. They include the opioids morphine, codeine, Darvon, and Demerol. The combination of opiates and alcohol enhances the sedative effect of both substances, increasing the risk of death from overdose.

Non-narcotic pain recipes

Aspirin and these types of over-the-counter pain relievers, alone, some of these medications cause stomach bleeding and inhibit blood clotting. Mixed with alcohol it can increase these effects. This can lead to gastric bleeding episodes. Additionally, aspirin can increase the potency of alcohol, increasing the effects of drinking.

Chronic alcohol ingestion activates enzymes that transform acetaminophen-type medications like Tylenol and others into chemicals that can cause liver damage, even when acetaminophen is used in commonly used (or less) amounts.

Sedatives – Sleeping Pills / Tranquilizers

Benzodiazepines like Valium are used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Benzodiazepine doses can cause severe drowsiness in the presence of alcohol, increasing the risk of car and household accidents, and in the right combination, can cause a depression of heart and respiratory functions. Low doses of Dalmane interact with low doses of alcohol to affect driving ability, even when alcohol is ingested the morning after taking Dalmane. Since many alcoholics often suffer from anxiety and insomnia, and since many of them drink morning drinks, this interaction can be dangerous.

Benzodiazepine Ativan is used for sedative and anxiolytic effects. The combination of alcohol and Ativan can cause a depression in heart and respiratory functions.

Acute alcohol consumption increases the potency of barbiturates in the bloodstream, prolonging the sedative effect. Additionally, acute or chronic alcohol use increases the sedative effect of barbiturates at their site of action in the brain, sometimes leading to coma or even fatal respiratory depression.


Coumadin is prescribed to slow the clotting ability of the blood. Acute alcohol consumption in conjunction with taking blood thinners increases the user’s risk of life-threatening bleeding. And chronic alcohol use reduces the benefits of Coumadin, reducing the patient’s protection from the consequences of blood clotting disorders.


As we all know, anesthetics are administered before surgery to render the patient unconscious and oblivious to pain. Chronic alcohol use increases the dose of anesthetics necessary to induce unconsciousness. Chronic alcohol use also increases the risk of liver damage caused by anesthetic gases.

If you have a drinking problem and are having upcoming surgery, this would be the time when being completely honest with your doctor about your drinking habits will really pay off.

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