Alcohol interacts with many medicines, including some prescription, pharmacy and complementary medicines.
The effects of combining alcohol and medicine depend on the type and dose of the medicine, the amount of alcohol consumed, and also on personal factors, such as genetics, gender and other health conditions. In general, women and older people are more likely to experience such interactions, because they are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.
It can take several hours for alcohol to be removed from the body. Therefore, interactions don't occur only when you consume medicines and alcohol at the same time. Rather, they can occur at any time that you have a significant amount of alcohol in your body.
Always check your medicine’s label, and avoid alcohol if this warning is given. If you are unsure about drinking alcohol while taking a medicine, ask your health professional for advice.
When alcohol doesn’t mix well with medicines
Sleeping, anti-anxiety and antidepressant medicines - alcohol can increase the effects of medicines that relax or sedate the body, such as sleeping tablets, anti-anxiety medicines and antidepressant medicines. The increased drowsiness and dizziness may make it harder for you to think clearly and affect your physical co-ordination. This may make you more prone to falling and impair your ability to do things like drive a car.
Cough, cold, allergy and travel sickness medicines - many cough, cold, allergy and travel sickness medicines bought from pharmacies contain ingredients that relax or sedate the body. These ingredients may interact with alcohol to cause increased drowsiness and dizziness.
Painkillers - some common painkillers, such as aspirin, celecoxib (Celebrex), ibuprofen (e.g. Nurofen) and naproxen (e.g. Naprosyn), can interact with alcohol to cause stomach upsets, stomach bleeding and ulcers.
In general, the occasional drink or two is unlikely to cause problems, but regularly having more than three alcoholic drinks a day may increase your risk of stomach problems with these medicines.