Medications and Alcoholic Beverages by Joy Exum, PharmD.

Drinkning alcohol while taking medicine... is it ok? What are the potential side effects or outcomes of doing so?

Although social drinking can be enjoyable on occasion, alcohol needs to be avoided while taking certain medications. Alcohol (ethanol) affects medications in various way. Alcohol can increase or intensify, decrease, or negate the medication’s active ingredient.  The medication Metformin, commonly used for diabetes, increases in the body when combined with alcohol and may cause dangerous low blood glucose levels which can lead to dizziness, drowsiness, sweating, and unconsciousness. Alcohol should be avoided when taking antibiotics, especially metronidazole (Flagyl) and sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (Bactrim DS). Anxiety and sleep aid medications, benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan) and non-benzodiazepines (Ambien) respectively, combined with alcohol is referred to as a “cocktail”. This combination depresses the central nervous system exponentially which includes slowed down breathing, reduced cognitive and physical abilities, increased risk of overdose, and could be fatal.  Although most drugs are safe and effective when used as directed, it's important to read all labels on your over-the-counter medications, namely cough and cold products, and even your prescriptions medications to ensure that that they do not adversely interact with alcohol. The goal is to make sure that before consuming alcohol, you check with either your local pharmacist or physician and be sure of any adverse drug interactions. Simply put, if you are not sure if alcohol can be combined with your medication, abstain from using alcohol until your doctor or pharmacist has explained that it's safe to mix the two.

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