Long weekend drinks and your medicines may be a dangerous cocktail

The upcoming long weekend may lead some of us to overindulge – and NPS MedicineWise is reminding people that alcohol and medicines can be a dangerous cocktail. Some medicines can react badly with alcohol, resulting in a type of hangover you weren’t counting on.

“Be aware that alcohol could interact with your medicines, which could spoil your long weekend,” says Dr Jeannie Yoo, NPS MedicineWise Medical Adviser and GP.

Alcohol can increase the side effects of sleep, anti-anxiety and antidepressant medicines, affecting your coordination and making it harder to think clearly. Cold and flu medicines may interact with alcohol to make you drowsy and dizzy. Alcohol can also interact with some antibiotics, leading to side effects such as nausea, vomiting, flushing and headaches.

“Also remember that it can take several hours for alcohol to leave the body. Interactions with medicines don’t only occur when you are drinking but any time you have a large amount of alcohol in your body.

“Protect yourself by avoiding alcohol if you are taking a medicine and don’t know its effect,” she adds.

NPS MedicineWise is also reminding people to be careful about how much pain-relieving medicine they take. Always check the label, even if you find yourself with a headache or other aches and pains following a big celebration.

“One of the big misconceptions about pain relievers is that taking more than the recommended dose means that the medicine will be more effective – but in fact, this could do your body some serious damage,” says Dr Yoo.

“For example, paracetamol, the active ingredient in many pain-relieving medicines, can cause liver damage and even death if you take more than the recommended dose,” she says.

NPS MedicineWise has information to help understand drug interactions, including interactions between medicines and alcohol.

For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may cost more). Hours of operation are 9 am – 5 pm AEDT, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).


Spokespeople are available for media interviews.

Media contact

Matthew Harris
Media adviser
02 8217 9229, 0419 618 365 or [email protected]

Independent, not-for-profit and evidence-based. NPS MedicineWise enables better decisions about medicines, medical tests and other health technologies. We receive funding from the Australian Government Department of Health.