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 you are taking, the amount of alcohol you drink, and also on personal factors, such as genetics, gender and other health conditions. In general, women and older people are more likely to experience this kind of interaction, because alcohol affects them more.
It takes several hours for your body to process and remove alcohol. Interactions between alcohol and medicines can occur at any time that you have a significant amount of alcohol in your body, not just when you take medicines and drink alcohol at exactly the same time.
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. Increased drowsiness and dizziness may make it harder for you to think clearly, make you more likely to fall and and impair your ability to do complicated things like drive a car.
Cough, cold, allergy and travel sickness medicines
Cough, cold, allergy and travel sickness medicines bought from pharmacies often contain ingredients that relax or sedate you. These ingredients may interact with alcohol to cause increased drowsiness and dizziness.
Some common pain relievers, such as aspirin, celecoxib, ibuprofen and naproxen, can interact with alcohol to cause stomach upsets, stomach bleeding and ulcers.
In general, the occasional alcoholic 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.