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Can I Drink Alcohol with Antibiotics?

By Christina Hall
Updated May 17, 2024
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The results of mixing alcohol with antibiotics are varied. Most of the time, drinking alcohol with antibiotics does not lead to adverse reactions. This is not the case in all instances, however. Depending on the type of antibiotic, combining alcohol with antibiotics can lead to decreased and sometimes increased potency of antibiotic medication. This fact lends to unpredictability in the dosage and desired outcome of a prescription.

Most side effect profiles of antibiotics include stomach upset, dizziness, and drowsiness; the side effects of alcohol consumption are similar. When combined, the risk of being affected from these common, but unpleasant, side effects is increased. There are some antibiotics, including metronidazole, tinidazole, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, that contraindicate the use of alcohol completely. Mixing these substances can lead to more severe reactions including rapid heart rate, nausea, and headache. In addition to becoming ill, which may require hospitalization, vomiting or diarrhea can cause a significant amount of the antibiotic to be lost, resulting in the discontinuation or prescription of a longer course of the antibiotic.

The liver is the primary organ used by the human body to metabolize antibiotics and alcohol. Combining alcohol with antibiotics can tax the liver and cause it to overwork and become inefficient. As the two substances "fight" for the use of the organ, either one of them can be stalled inside the body waiting to be metabolized. Side effects can be increased, while the effectiveness of the drug is decreased. Alcohol can decrease the effectiveness of many medications that may be used in conjunction with antibiotics to treat an infection as well.

Doctors are careful when prescribing antibiotic medications to patients with chronic liver disease such as cirrhosis or hepatitis. If chronic alcohol abuse is a factor, some antibiotics such as doxycycline need to be regulated because a higher dosage may be needed to counteract liver dysfunction. Kidney dysfunction is also considered when prescribing antibiotic medication, as alcohol is known to have harmful effects on this system. When a healthy individual is considering combining alcohol with antibiotics, it is still important to read the insert included with the prescription in order to be aware of any contraindications. The individual should ask the pharmacist or prescribing physician any additional questions about the drug and conditions that might interfere with taking it.

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Discussion Comments

By discographer — On Jan 03, 2015

I drank once when I was on antibiotics. I think the antibiotics made me get drunk faster than usual and then I got sick. I had an awful hangover the next day too. I don't know if I'm very sensitive to this combination but I wouldn't recommend it either. If a doctor has said that drinking is okay, at least take it slow to see how you react. Don't have more than one or two drinks, choose drinks with lower alcohol levels, eat before drinking and drink slowly. It also helps to leave plenty of time after the antibiotics and before the next dose so that the antibiotics are metabolized and have left the liver.

It's probably just easier to skip the drinks though. This is a lot to consider and drinking is just not worth it when one is already sick with an infection and has to take medicine.

By burcinc — On Jan 02, 2015

@turquoise-- It really completely depends on the antibiotic like the article said. The antibiotic you're on may not interact negatively with alcohol much. But don't take this to mean that this is true for all antibiotics because it's not. It's always best to ask the doctor every time that antibiotics are prescribed. I, as a rule, don't drink alcohol when I'm on antibiotics. Even if my doctor says it's okay to have a drink, I avoid it because antibiotics always give me an upset stomach as a side effect. So drinking is out of the question as I can't handle it and it will just make things worse for me. I think it's best to wait a few days until the treatment is over to drink.

By turquoise — On Jan 02, 2015

I always thought that we're not supposed to drink alcohol at all when taking antibiotics. But my doctor recently prescribed me antibiotics for an ear infection and said that a few drink is fine. I was surprised to hear this because I had no idea that it was okay to drink a little bit.

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