Medicines that don’t mix with alcohol

While an alcoholic drink from time to time may be just what the doctor ordered, mixing alcohol with medications can cause serious side effects. In fact, even a glass of wine or a can of beer can be dangerous with specific prescription or over-the-counter medications.

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“I’m often asked if it’s safe to mix alcohol with prescription drugs, and my answer is that you have to use common sense,” says Dr. Gregory Smith, the author of the book The American Addict,” and a leading specialist in pain management.

“No one should drink too much alcohol when taking prescription drugs, especially opioids, anxiety pills or sleeping pills. All these drugs are sedatives, and with alcohol, they can cause deep sleep, respiratory depression, and even death.”

Dr. Gregory Smith tells Newsmax Health that the best rule is to avoid alcohol with ALL prescription drugs. He says over-the-counter medications can also be problematic for some people.

“Only if you know that a glass of wine or beer does not affect you negatively, then, of course, you may go ahead and enjoy in moderation,” he says.

Here is a list of the most common medications that do not mix with alcohol:


1. Medications for pain, sedatives and sleeping pills including Percocet, Vicodin, Demerol, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, Ambien, and Lunesta. The side effects can include drowsiness, impaired motor control, memory lapses, and shortness of breath and, in rare cases, severe injury or death.

2. Arthritis medications including Celebrex, Naprosyn, and Voltaren. Potential side effects include ulcers, stomach bleeding, and liver damage. In case of Celebrex, there is an increased risk of cardiovascular events.

3. Blood clots medications. Coumadin may react with alcohol to increase the risk of internal bleeding, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). With alcohol, it may also have the opposite effect causing blood clots, stroke or heart attack. Dr. Amy Tiemeier, Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy tells Newsmax Health: “Even social drinkers should be very careful when taking Coumadin.”

4. Antibiotics including Zithromax, Flagyl, and Nizoral. When mixed with alcohol, antibiotics can cause rapid heartbeat, sudden changes in blood pressure, stomach pain and vomiting. According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol can also increase the side effects such as upset stomach and dizziness, and slow down the recovery.

5. Diabetes meds including Glucotrol, Glynase, Micronase, and Diabinese. Alcohol can cause blood sugar to drop dangerously low. The side effects include nausea, vomiting, headaches and an accelerated heart rate.


6. Over-the-counter pain medication including Tylenol, Aleve, Advil, Excedrin, and Motrin. Do not mix them with alcohol. Potential side effects include upset stomach, bleeding and ulcers, rapid heartbeat and liver damage – especially with Tylenol and Excedrin (acetaminophen).

7. Allergy pills and medicines for the cold including Benadryl, Claritin, Claritin-D, Dimetapp, Zyrtec, Sudafed Sinus and Allergy, Tylenol Allergy Sinus and Tylenol Cold & Flu. Combining alcohol with the drugs can cause increased drowsiness, dizziness and possible liver damage. The NIAAA recommends reading the label on the medicine bottle to find out the ingredients and ask your pharmacist about how alcohol may interact with the drug you are taking.

8. Cough syrup. Robitussin Cough and Robitussin A-C can cause drowsiness and dizziness when mixed with alcohol. Remember that certain cough medicines contain up to 10 percent alcohol, and according to NIAAA, it can significantly increase the risk of side effects. Cough medicine may also contain codeine, a narcotic, which results in double trouble.

“Patients who take drugs should never drink and drive or operate heavy machinery afterward,” says Tiemeier.