Drinking alcohol this Christmas and New Year? These medicines really don’t mix

In summer, there are many gatherings and parties while drinking alcohol.Photography/Getty Images

Neil Wheat and Jessica Pace conversationexplain what you should know if you are taking medication and planning to drink alcohol on these holidays.

A glass or two of champagne for Christmas lunch. A cool, crisp beer on the beach. A cheeky cocktail to enjoy with friends on New Year’s Eve. This summer, there are likely to be many opportunities to relax with a drink in one hand.

However, if you are drinking alcohol and taking certain medications, this can affect your body in different ways. There is a nature. Others are at risk of life-threatening overdose.

If you are taking medication in the summer and plan to take it, you should know the following:


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Why is this a big deal?

When you take a drug, it moves to your stomach. From there, your body sends it to the liver where it is metabolized and broken down before the drug enters the bloodstream. .

If you drink alcohol, this too can be broken down in the liver and affect how much the drug is metabolized.

some drugs are metabolized morewhich could mean that not enough of it reaches the bloodstream to be effective.


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some drugs are metabolized Less thanThis means taking a much higher dose than intended, which can lead to an overdose. I have.

Whether and how they interact depends on many factors. These include medications taken, doses, alcohol consumption, age, genetics, gender, and general health.

Women, the elderly, and people with liver problems are more likely to have alcohol-drug interactions.

What drugs are compatible with alcohol?

Many medications, whether prescribed by a doctor or purchased over-the-counter such as herbal medicines, interact with alcohol.

1. Drugs + Alcohol = Drowsiness, Coma, Death


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Drinking alcohol and taking drugs that depress the central nervous system to reduce alertness and stimulation may have an additive effect. Together they can cause increased sleepiness, slowed breathing and heart rate, and in extreme cases can lead to coma and death. higher.

Medications to watch out for include medications for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, pain (except paracetamol), sleep disorders (such as insomnia), allergies, and cold and flu medications. It is best not to drink alcohol or keep your alcohol intake to a minimum.

2. Drugs + Alcohol = More Effects

Mixing some medicines with alcohol makes them more effective.

One example is the sleeping pill Zolpidem, which should not be taken with alcohol. A rare but serious side effect is abnormal behavior during sleep. For example, eating while sleeping, sleep driving, and sleepwalking are more likely to occur with alcohol.

3. Medicine + craft beer or homebrew = high blood pressure


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Some types of drugs only interact with certain types of alcohol.

Examples include depression drugs such as phenelzine, tranylcypromine, and moclobemide, the antibiotic linezolid, the Parkinson’s drug selegiline, and the cancer drug procarbazine.

These so-called monoamine oxidase inhibitors only interact with some types of boutique and artisan beers, beers with visible sediment, Belgian, Korean, European, African beers, and home-brewed beers and wines. .

Some types of drugs only interact with some types of boutique or artisan beers.
Some types of drugs only interact with some types of boutique or artisan beers.

These types of alcohol contain high levels of tyramine. Tyramine is a naturally occurring substance that is normally broken down by the body and is usually harmless.

However, monoamine oxidase inhibitors prevent the body from breaking down tyramine.

4. Medicine + alcohol = effect even if you quit drinking


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Other drugs interact because they affect how the body breaks down alcohol.

If you take these medicines and drink alcohol, you may experience nausea, vomiting, flushing of the face and neck, shortness of breath or dizziness, a faster-than-usual heartbeat, and a decrease in blood pressure.

This can occur even after stopping treatment and drinking alcohol. For example, if you are taking metronidazole, you should avoid alcohol while taking the drug and for at least 24 hours after you stop taking it.

An example of how alcohol alters the amount of drugs or related substances in the body is acitretin. This drug is used to treat skin disorders such as severe psoriasis and to prevent skin cancer in people who have had organ transplants.

When acitretin is ingested, it is transformed into another substance, etretinate, before it is eliminated from the body. Alcohol increases the amount of etretinate in the body.

This is especially important as etretinate can cause birth defects. To prevent this, if you are a woman of childbearing age, you should avoid alcohol while using the drug and for two months after stopping the drug.


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Myths about alcohol and drugs

alcohol and birth control

One of the most common misconceptions about drugs and alcohol is that you can’t drink alcohol while using the birth control pill.

Alcohol has no direct effect on contraceptive efficacy, so it is generally safe to use with the pill.

However, the pill is most effective when taken at the same time each day. If you drink a lot, you are more likely to forget this the next day.

There is a myth that alcohol should not be mixed with antibiotics, but only certain antibiotics.
There is a myth that alcohol should not be mixed with antibiotics, but only certain antibiotics.

Alcohol can also cause nausea and vomiting. If you vomit within 3 hours after taking it, it will not work. This increases the risk of pregnancy.

Birth control pills can also affect your response to alcohol because the hormones they contain can change the way your body eliminates alcohol. means that you can


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alcohol and antibiotics

Then there’s the myth that you shouldn’t mix alcohol and antibiotics.

Otherwise, alcohol does not affect how antibiotics work, so it is generally safe to use alcohol with antibiotics.

However, it is best to avoid alcohol while taking antibiotics if possible. Using the two together increases the chances of these side effects occurring. Alcohol can also reduce energy and lengthen recovery time.

Where can I get help?

If you plan to drink alcohol on these holidays and are concerned about interactions with your medications, do not stop taking them.

Your pharmacist can advise if it’s safe to take based on the medications you’re taking, and if not, offer advice on alternatives.


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Nial Wheate is Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, Sydney School of Pharmacy. Jessica Pace is an Associate Lecturer at the University of Sydney.

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