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Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Antibiotics?

Alcohol & antibiotics are generally not a good mix. 
Many people wonder whether it is safe to drink alcohol while taking antibiotics. While some sources suggest it's fine to consume alcohol in moderation, mixing alcohol and antibiotics can actually be quite dangerous. At Miracles Asia, our alcohol rehab in Thailand has proven success of helping people change their drinking habits.

Table of Contents

"Can you drink on antibiotics" is, surprisingly, an exceptionally commonly searched question on the internet. 

Around 70% of Americans like to drink alcohol - in many cases at the detriment of their health - while antibiotics are something we all need to take on occasion.

It should be of no surprise that so many people want to know if taking antibiotics while drinking alcohol is safe or not. 

The problem is that many of the answers 'out there' on the internet are inaccurate or often a little vague.

The fact that so many of you would like to know if you can drink on antibiotics concerns our addiction team, and we want you to be armed with all the information you could need relating to drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics.

To that end, we have written an extensive article addressing the main points.
Key Takeaways
Mixing alcohol and antibiotics is generally not recommended as it weakens the immune system and can have negative side effects.
Antibiotics are used to combat bacterial diseases, while alcohol is a drug that can weaken vital organs such as the liver.
It is not safe for severe alcoholics to quit cold turkey in order to take antibiotics.

Taking Antibiotics and Drinking Alcohol - Short Answer

can you drink on antibiotics
Let's save you a little time by getting right to the heart of the question with as little fuss as possible. 

Can you consume alcohol and antibiotics at the same time - yes or no?

The short answer is no, you should avoid alcohol while taking most forms of medication

There are some exceptions, but the general rule is that alcohol and antibiotics are not a good mix. 

You probably suspect as much without us having to confirm it, but we want to take this opportunity to drive the point home and say with a resounding, emphatic 'no'. 

If you must drink alcohol, you should try and avoid alcohol and antibiotics together.

Other sources state that it is fine to consume alcohol in moderation while taking antibiotics, but that isn't entirely truthful. In some cases, mixing drugs and alcohol can be quite dangerous (more on that later).

Antibiotics and alcohol should be avoided at all costs. 

In short, those who are taking antibiotics are doing so because they are unwell. The immune system needs to be at full strength to embark on the healing process, but drinking interferes with and weakens the immune system to various degrees.

If you drink alcohol while taking antibiotics, you are impacting your body's natural ability to work in conjunction with the medication.

What's interesting is how casual people often are about this. 

A common narrative with alcohol and medication interactions is that "it will be fine, everyone does it", but this is completely wrong. 

It isn't fine... 

Everyone doesn't do it... 

Most people avoid alcohol and antibiotics together, and with good reason.

The human body relies on our natural immune system to fight illness. 

Drinking alcohol will reduce the immune system's ability to work at full capacity in even a strong, healthy person.

Reducing the effectiveness of the immune system when needed most will only serve to keep you sicker for longer.

Another factor to consider is that alcohol is known to weaken certain vital organs, like the liver.

Certain antibiotics can be quite hard on these vital organs, but the human body can withstand them. 

Mixing alcohol at the same time, however, will bring a very real potential threat to those vital organs by increasing the workload.

How do Antibiotics Actually Work?

Antibacterial medicine (usually referred to simply as antibiotics) are potent, non-narcotic drugs that stop or halt the growth of germs. 

Antibiotics combat bacterial diseases rather than viral infections like the flu or the regular, common cold.

Antibiotics work by either eradicating invasive germs or preventing the production of new antibodies. 

They are occasionally necessary because the amount of foreign bacteria in the human body is too great for the immune system to fight efficiently and eliminate the infection on its own.

There are numerous varieties of antibiotics on the market that cure a variety of ailments, including (but not limited to):
Skin infections
Throat infections.
Urinary tract infections.
Ear infections
Chest (lung) infections.

Are Antibiotics Safe?

When used as prescribed by a medical professional, the majority of antibiotics are generally quite safe, but many of them also carry a risk of unpleasant side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and sometimes even nasty stomach pain.

When used with alcohol, all of these symptoms can be intensified and result in additional nasty effects such as vertigo, sleepiness, headaches, and even seizures, which can be fatal.

Acetaldehyde, a byproduct of the body's breakdown of alcohol, can make you feel sick. 

Alcohol consumption while taking antibiotics can increase this nausea, which is a common side effect of antibiotics that affects both the stomach and digestive system.

Alcohol and antibiotics can both impair cognitive function, focus, and coordination in addition to gastrointestinal problems. 

Another thing to remember with drinking alcohol and taking antibiotics is that drinking alcohol disrupts vital bodily functions like rest and adequate hydration, which are needed to recover from a bacterial infection.

These are further reasons that make it recommended to avoid alcohol and antibiotics at the same time. But can you drink alcohol on antibiotics, if you have an addiction to alcohol?

Alcoholics and Antibiotics

We appreciate that for some of you, quitting alcohol cold turkey is a dangerous proposition.

Depending on the severity of the addiction, suddenly quitting alcohol can be life-threatening for people suffering from alcohol abuse.

Again, depending on various factors (but mainly pertaining to severity), serious alcoholics are advised by medical professionals to gradually taper off consuming alcohol or, even better, embark on a supervised program that will monitor and assist with alcohol withdrawal symptoms and detox.

The problem is that this takes time, and if you need antibiotics for an acute condition, you are not advised to refuse them owing to the necessity of consuming alcohol.

In that case, you should probably take your antibiotics as advised while trying your best to reduce alcohol consumption as much as possible, although we would stress that you seek professional medical advice, and ask your doctor if moderate alcohol consumption will be ok for you personally.

In other words, severe alcoholics should avoid quitting cold turkey to take antibiotics. 

In this instance, they should seek professional medical advice to ensure that the particular type of antibiotic they have been prescribed will not have dangerous side effects when combined with alcohol.

Alcohol and Medication Interactions - Potential Dangers

Both alcohol and antibiotics are similar in some ways. Alcohol, as you are probably aware, is itself a drug, just like antibiotics. 

They both have individual traits and side effects that affect how someone behaves and feels while taking them. Alcohol and antibiotics should never be combined because of this reason alone.

Mixing alcohol consumption with certain antibiotics might cause extreme exhaustion, a splitting migraine, vertigo, anxiety (or even panic attacks), chest pain, and irregular heartbeat.

In addition, mixing alcohol with antibiotics might increase digestive side effects such as severe diarrhea, excruciating stomach pain or cramps, fever, and uncontrollable vomiting. 

Certain antibiotics combined with alcohol can potentially harm important organs, including the liver.

Toxins, such as strong antibiotic pharmaceuticals, are removed from the blood and body by the kidneys through urine. Alcohol can increase the chances of kidney damage because this vital organ is now overworking to expel both alcohol and antibiotics together.

Commonly Prescribed Antibiotics and Alcohol.

In some cases, you must never mix alcohol with specific antibiotics. These include (but are possibly not limited to) the following specific medication:
Metronidazole (Flagyl).
Tinidazole (Tindamax).
Trimethoprim (Bactrim).
Aftercare and discharge planning.
Those who suffer from alcohol addiction should advise their doctor accordingly if prescribed any of those antibiotics. Even low-alcoholic beverages should be strictly avoided when prescribed those medications as they may cause violent physical reactions. 

Other medications might produce similar nasty effects, so it is always advisable to consult your doctor with any concerns you have. 

In addition to antibiotics, any CNS depressant medication that causes a reduction in brain activity - such as valium, for example - should be avoided while taking alcohol. 

Other CNS depressant medications, such as opioids, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and anxiety or seizure substances, must also be avoided with alcohol use. 

If you drink alcohol while taking any of these medications, you could be in danger of extremely unpleasant side effects.


So, that should put a definitive line under the common question, can you drink while on antibiotics?

If you must drink alcohol, you should stop temporarily while taking antibiotics. 

Avoiding alcohol, for most people, shouldn't be too challenging for a week or two. 

However, those who are suffering from alcohol addiction should possibly reduce their daily alcohol intake as much as possible without putting themselves at risk.

Always seek professional advice in those circumstances, and if you feel the time is right to embark on recovery treatment for alcoholism, the Admissions Team at Miracles Asia is always available for a talk & can offer a free, no obligation assessment of your current situation to determine if inpatient or outpatient would be the best fit for you.

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