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A Reminder on the Effects of Mixing Drugs and Alcohol

With the holiday season upon us, it is common for people to overindulge a little during their Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts. They may go overboard on the wine in particular, in addition to the food, but it is important to remember that if you are taking prescription medication, you must be especially careful with your alcohol consumption.

We hear all the time about how it can be dangerous to mix alcohol and drugs, but some of us may not understand the details as to why it can mixing the two can be dangerous, or just how dangerous the combination can be. On that note, Consumer Reports has reissued their recommendations on how to enjoy the holidays while also staying safe. This is especially important today, with the recent increases in people suffering from overdoses due to both opioids and prescription medication.

If you drink even a little bit of alcohol while taking certain drugs, no matter whether those drugs are prescribed to you or are sold over-the-counter, then you can potentially suffer harmful effects on your health. When certain drugs are taken with alcohol, the combination can make the effects of the alcohol even stronger. Similarly, taking medications while drinking can increase the strength of the medications as well, and this can lead to dangerous and potentially even fatal side effects.

Some of the drugs in particular that increase in strength when taken with alcohol include anti-anxiety medications, like Valium and Ativan, as well as opioids, such as Vicodin, Demerol, and Percocet. Taking anti-anxiety medication with alcohol can lead to dizziness and drowsiness, as well as increasing the potential of an overdose.

Many people may think that mixing alcohol with antibiotics may not be as big of an issue as mixing them with stronger prescription drugs, but this combination too can cause problems. Certain antibiotics, like azithromycin, can cause nausea and vomiting when taken with alcohol. Imbibing alcohol while taking doxycycline can actually reduce the strength of the drug, making it less effective in fighting off an infection.

Insofar as over-the-counter drugs are concerned, these too can be a problem when mixed with alcohol. Antihistamines that may already cause drowsiness, such as Dimetapp, Benadryl, and Zyrtec, can increase the drowsiness even more when taken with alcohol. Even simple pain relievers, like Tylenol and Advil, become dangerous with too much alcohol.

Blood pressure medicine can also become lethal when taken with alcohol. Not only can it cause heart problems, but it can also increase the chance of a stroke in patients who are taking Coumadin and who have more than three drinks in one sitting.

As expected, negative effects increase with the more medications people take. That being said, even if you're only taking one drug, you should still be very careful about mixing alcohol with it. Consumer Reports recommends that folks ask their doctors or pharmacists about how much alcohol they can have, if any, while taking medication.