15 drugs you should never mix with alcohol-21

15 Drugs You Should Never Mix With Alcohol

Many people think nothing of going out for a drink after work or grabbing a beer out of the fridge even if they’re taking medication. However, drugs often don’t mix well with alcohol, and you should be careful of drinking while taking any kinds of drugs.

If you’ve read the label of some prescription painkillers, over-the-counter cough syrups and other medications, you may have seen the warnings: DO NOT MIX WITH ALCOHOL.

Whether it’s Tylenol or Xanax, Nyquil or Soma, most medications should not be mixed with alcohol. But why is that? What is it about alcohol that causes such a negative reaction with many over-the-counter and prescription medications?

Alcohol use in the united states

Have you ever drank a beer or had a glass of wine while on a prescription or OTC medication? If you drank a significant amount of alcohol, you may have noticed the dizziness and lightheadedness caused by some medication interactions. For certain medications, you don’t need to drink much at all.

What about other recreational drugs? You may have seen your friends drinking and smoking marijuana or snorting cocaine. They don’t come with warning labels but it’s seldom a good idea to mix drugs.

Often it can be difficult to gauge exactly how much of each substance you ingested. If you can’t keep track of the amounts of substances in your body, you won’t be able to let a medical response team know how to help you properly.

Who Drinks While Taking Medication?

You don’t have to be an alcoholic to drink while taking medication. You may fail to read the information about mixing the two or you may think one drink won’t hurt. Some people will stop drinking when they’re on prescription medication but think nothing of having a beer or glass of wine with OTC medications.

For those who suffer from alcohol abuse or addiction, they may be unable or unwilling to stop drinking while on medication. They may try one drink and not notice a difference, so they think they can continue to drink like before.

Mixing drugs with alcohol

What is it that causes alcohol to mix poorly with most medications? How can you avoid these negative interactions? What do you do when you notice a bad reaction to a medication?

Read on to find out more about the result of mixing alcohol with various medications and what you should do if you or a loved one suffers negative consequences from a dangerous combination.

The Impact of Alcohol on the Human Body — What Happens When You Drink?

Alcohol impacts multiple systems of the body and has the potential to be dangerous on its own. Drinking lowers inhibition levels, usually resulting in feelings of invincibility, which often cause injury and even death. You may be aware of the risks of alcohol abuse and addiction.

  • Approximately 88,000 people die every year due to alcohol-related causes.
  • Alcohol misuse and the accidents that result from drinking are the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

How does alcohol impact the body, and what makes it so dangerous?

When the alcohol you drink cannot be entirely processed by your liver, it passes to your brain. It has a significant impact on the brain, affecting movement, speech, judgment, and memory. You may have difficulty walking, slurring your speech, show poor judgment, and not be able to remember things.

When you combine these results with the side effects caused by most medications, the results can be significant and severe. Not only should the short-term effects be taken into consideration, but the long-term effects are often just as serious. Your heart, liver, and stomach often take a beating when forced to process and withstand the impact of toxic substances.

Alcohol can also mask side effects from other drugs or limit their effectiveness. You may need to take more to get the results you’re looking for, which could put you in danger of an overdose.

Delirium Tremens

Another serious consequence of drinking alcohol is delirium tremens or DTs. This condition usually results from someone who drinks a massive amount of alcohol or has been a long-time addict. It causes the person to become extremely confused and may experience tremors. They may be unable to speak and form coherent thoughts or sentences. DTs often cause paranoia and panic attacks.

People who mix alcohol with medications are at an increased risk for developing DTs. This condition isn’t just uncomfortable, it can be deadly. It causes the body temperature to rise to a dangerous level and can bring on seizures.

What Causes the Negative Interaction Between Alcohol and Medications?

The interactions caused by mixing alcohol with drugs, whether prescription or OTC medications range in severity. Some merely cause nausea or slight vomiting, others result in headaches, drowsiness, or loss of coordination. More significant impacts include internal bleeding, heart problems, and labored or difficulty breathing.

What happens when you mix alcohol with other drugs

Oftentimes the effects of the alcohol negate the effectiveness of the medication. The beer, wine, or liquor coursing through your veins blocks the healing properties of the medications you take. Other times the alcohol in your body amplifies some of the effects of the medications. In the worst possible case, alcohol causes the medication to become a toxin in your body, creating serious harm.

Okay, so you’ll most likely experience a negative interaction if you drink while on medications or doing drugs. But why is that?

Both prescription medications and OTC medications often include a notable variety of ingredients, which can work with or against alcohol. Many of them contain a significant amount of alcohol. The average person is unable to tell the difference between these ingredients or determine the impact of alcohol in each.

Some medications, such as cough syrups or night time cold medications like NyQuil list alcohol as a main ingredient. Certain brands have up to 10% alcohol in the bottle, more alcohol per volume than most beers.

Women and Older Individuals Have a Hard Time With Mixing Alcohol and Meds

Alcohol affects women differently than it does men. Women usually reach a higher blood alcohol concentration level quicker than men do, even when they drink the same amount in the same time.

For this reason, women may experience more significant reactions between alcohol and their medications or recreational drugs. Older people are also at a higher risk for interactions between their medication and alcohol consumption.

As you get older, your body doesn’t process alcohol as quickly as it once did. When you continue drinking, the alcohol builds up in your system. Mix it with medication, and you’re more likely to have bad side effects than someone who is younger.

Because of the risk of complications, medications come affixed with warning labels which provide a blanket ban on drinking while taking them. It is better to avoid drinking entirely, whether or not known complications have occurred.

Find a breakdown of the potential reactions with various medications below.

1. General Pain Relief Medication

Even common pain relief medications like Advil, Aleve, Excedrin, Motrin, and Tylenol should not be mixed with alcohol. It may seem like they are innocent enough to mix, but results can prove problematic.

Mixing alcohol with pain releaf medication

Reactions to alcohol mixed with pain relief medications include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Bleeding
  • Ulcers
  • Liver damage (Tylenol)
  • Rapid heartbeat

2. Painkillers

Painkillers may be the most commonly mixed with alcohol yet one of the most dangerous. Effects of the drugs are often amplified. It is strictly suggested you do not drink while taking painkillers.

These medications include Darvocet, Demerol, Percocet, and Vicodin.

Mixing alcohol with painkillers

If you do mix alcohol with painkillers, the results include effects such as:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme risk of overdose
  • Labored or difficulties breathing
  • Impacted motor functioning
  • Strange behavior
  • Memory problems

3. Muscle Relaxers

Muscle relaxers include Flexeril and Soma.

Muscle relaxers

When you mix these medications with alcohol, interactions are similar to those of painkillers, including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Increased risk of seizure
  • Significant increase of risk of overdose
  • Difficulties with or labored breathing
  • Impacted motor control
  • Strange behavior
  • Memory problems

4. Sleep Aids

Sleeping aids such as Ambien, Lunesta, Prosom, Sominex, and Restoril include significant side effects on their own. Drowsiness and dizziness are common even with the smallest doses of sleeping medications.

However, when you add alcohol into the mix, the side effects heighten. Reactions to mixing alcohol with sleep aids include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Difficulties with or labored breathing
  • Difficulties with motor functioning
  • Strange behavior
  • Memory problems

5. Cough Syrup

Common brands of cough syrup and other cough medications include Delsym and Robitussin. Many of them already contain a significant amount of alcohol as one of the ingredients. When you drink and take these medications, your system is getting more alcohol to process than you realize. Common interactions when cough syrup is mixed with alcohol include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased chance of overdose

Some people mix the two intentionally for recreational use. The term Purple Drank is used to describe a mixture of prescription-strength cough syrup and soda along with Jolly Ranchers candy to create a purple drink. It’s also known as lean, sizzurp, Texas tea and dirty Sprite. Purple Drank became popular with rappers and club goers, but it may have led to the death of rapper DJ Screw who sang about the drink in his songs. Other celebrities have been hospitalized or even died from complications that were believed to have come about because of use of Purple Drank.

Mixing alcohol with cough syrup

It’s important to note that cough syrup which contains codeine is used to make the drink. However, that doesn’t make other types of cough syrup safe to use with alcohol.

6. Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers are often significantly strong medications that help manage moods in those with specific disorders. Common mood stabilizers include Depakote as well as Eskalith and Lithobid (brand names for Lithium).

Mood Stabilizers mixed with alcohol

In addition to the side effects produced on their own, when you mix mood stabilizers with alcohol, reactions include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Increased risk of existing side effects
  • Impaired motor functioning
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upset stomach or nausea
  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Depression
  • Liver damage (Depakote)

7. Antidepressants

There are dozens of different antidepressants available and it is suggested you do not drink with any of them. Alcohol is a depressant and to drink while on antidepressants is counterproductive.

Antidepressants and alcohol

The more common brands of antidepressants include Celexa, Cymbalta, Effexor, Lexapro, Prozac, Seroquel, Remeron, Risperdal, Wellbutrin, and Zoloft. Interactions with alcohol can also occur while using herbal remedies like St. John’s Wort.

These interactions are often severe and include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased chance of overdose
  • Significant increase in depression and hopelessness
  • Impaired motor functioning (Seroquel and Remeron)
  • Increased effects of alcohol (Wellbutrin)
  • Potential for liver damage (Cymbalta)

8. Attention and Concentration Medications

People often mix attention and concentration medications (such as Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin, Strattera, or Vyvanse) with drinking. The mild amphetamines give you the ability to drink for longer but not without potential complications.

Mixing alcohol and attention medications

Avoid mixing alcohol with attention or concentration medications in order to avoid:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulties concentrating (Concerta, Ritalin)
  • Potential for heightened risk for heart problems (Adderall, Vyvanse)
  • Liver Damage (Strattera)

Some people are given a prescription for these medications, and they simply decide to drink while taking them. Others choose to mix the two for recreational purposes. Adderall and alcohol is one such popular combination seen in pop culture.

Adderall is a stimulant medication which is designed to make you more alert. Alcohol is a depressant which relaxes you. Instead of canceling each other out, the two drugs fight in your system for control. This can lead to severe problems and complications. You may experience euphoria and excitability and alertness. However, you may also notice your blood pressure and pulse have increased. You may be unable to sleep or eat.

More severe side effects of mixing the two include seizures and alcohol poisoning. It can even lead to death if you don’t get help in time. Musicians often combine the two to stay alert all night and to enjoy the feeling of euphoria. College students also mix the drug and alcohol either recreationally or unintentionally. Some take Adderall to help them focus on studying and then use alcohol to relax.

9. Anxiety Medications

Ativan, BuSpar, Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax are just a few anxiety medications that can cause interactions with alcohol. The list of potential reactions for anxiety medications is rather significant.

Anxiety and diabetes medication

Drinking on anxiety medication can cause:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • An increased risk of overdose
  • Difficulties with or experiencing slowed breathing
  • Impacted motor functions
  • Strange behavior
  • Memory problems

One of the most well-known of the anxiety medications is Wellbutrin. It’s often recommended to help with anxiety and depression. If you mix it with alcohol, it can have dangerous results. You’re at an increased risk for seizures and blackouts. You may be more confused and paranoid. You may also experience suicidal thoughts. The medication can reduce your tolerance for alcohol which will lead to increased intoxication with just a few drinks. You’re also more likely to overdose on Wellbutrin when you take it with alcohol.

10. Diabetes Medication

Alcohol usually contains large amounts of sugar. The sudden rush of sugar in the body often impacts diabetics significantly if they are not prepared and especially if they are on medication.

Common brand names for diabetes medications include Glucotrol, Glynase, DiaBeta, Orinase, and Tolinase.

If you mix alcohol with these diabetes medications, interactions include:

  • Unusually low blood sugar levels
  • Flushing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sudden changes in blood pressure
  • Weakness

11. Arthritis Medications

Arthritis medication brand names range from Celebrex to Naprosyn to Voltaren. Regardless of the medication you take, there are dangerous possibilities for complications when you mix them with alcohol.

Don_t mix alcohol and arthritis medications

Side effects of your body’s reaction to the mix of medication and alcohol include:

  • Ulcers
  • Stomach bleeding
  • Liver damage

12. High Cholesterol Medications

There exists a wide variety of medications to help those with high cholesterol, including Advicor, Crestor, Lipitor, Niaspan, Pravigard, Vytorin, and Zocor.

high cholesterol medications

Medications for high cholesterol impact the body significantly, with reaction side effects such as:

  • Liver damage
  • Increased flushing and itching (Advicor and Niaspan)
  • Increased stomach bleeding (Pravigard)

13. Allergy Medications

Allergy medications include brands such as Benadryl, Claritin, Dimetapp, Sudafed, or Zyrtec. Some allergy medications provide a feeling of drowsiness that the alcohol usually exaggerates.

Potential risks of interaction with alcohol include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Increased risk of overdose

14. Marijuana

Marijuana may seem like an innocent enough drug. It is widely believed that no deaths have been attributed to marijuana alone. However, when mixed with alcohol, it exaggerates the effects of both substances.

Both alcohol and marijuana are downers. Mixing them increases relaxation and drowsiness. Some see this as a good time but it can also prove dangerous.

Alcohol often produces an “invincibility effect” but, when coupled with the slowed reaction times caused by marijuana, the results can be disastrous.

Mixing alcohol with marijuana or cocaine

In addition, marijuana limits the body’s ability to vomit. When you drink too much, your body vomits as a protective measure to ensure you don’t take in too much alcohol.

If the weed keeps you from throwing up, you may retain more alcohol than is safe. In a worst-case scenario, you may even choke on your own vomit.

15. Cocaine

When you snort or smoke cocaine after drinking, or drink after taking cocaine, a third chemical is created: cocaethylene. Little is known of cocaethylene outside of the pharmacological community but its impact is anything but little.

Cocaethylene attaches to the liver and builds up over time. When large amounts of both alcohol and cocaine are consumed, greater amounts of cocaethylene build up.

Additionally, the chemical is attributed to heart attacks even in those under 40 years old. Although researchers conduct studies, few outside the medical community are aware of its impact.

Mixing the two has a longer-lasting impact than most other drugs on this list. Also, cocaine is one of the most common drugs mixed with alcohol.

If you are still drinking and using, it may be a good idea to think twice before mixing cocaine and alcohol again.

Side Effects of Mixing Alcohol with Common Recreational Drugs

It’s obvious that mixing alcohol with medications that specifically state not to can be dangerous. Years of research has revealed various side effects that negatively impact the human body.

However, what about recreational drugs? They don’t come in a labeled bottle so who is to say the reactions between different types of drugs and alcohol?

Mixing drugs and alcohol is common at many parties. Alcohol is mixed most commonly with marijuana for a relaxing evening or cocaine for a night on the town.

What Should You Do When You Notice a Negative Reaction to Medications?

If you realize either you or a loved one are experiencing a negative interaction between a drug and alcohol, take the person to the emergency room. Medical personnel can assess the situation and determine the severity of the reaction.

You may be able to sit out less severe reactions between some medications and alcohol, such as those experienced with Advil or Tylenol. However, repeat occurrences of mixing these medications can lead to severe complications.

If you have difficulty stopping drinking and taking medication isn’t enough to make the change, it is possible you have a drinking problem. You may need to seek help for your alcohol abuse.

Normally people who like to drink are able to stop when presented with a good reason to do so. If you are unable to stop when given such a reason, you might be an alcoholic.

Thankfully, there are various types of treatment for alcoholism. From detox to intensive outpatient programs, inpatient rehab to drug and alcohol counseling, there is an option for everyone.

With the help of treatment, you will learn to live a sober, happy, and alcohol-free life. The enjoyment alcohol provides versus the negatives it can bring often leaves little question of the better option.

Regardless of whether you’re addicted to alcohol or just enjoy a drink, make sure to follow your doctor’s or pharmacist’s instructions whenever you take medications. It can save your life or protect your health.

Dealing with a Polydrug Addiction

When you are regularly using more than one drug, it’s known as a polydrug addiction. Combining two drugs increases your risk for developing addiction. If you have a loved one who is taking a drug with alcohol, you need to let them know of the dangers of their behavior.

You may need to intervene if they won’t stop or they don’t see the dangers. An intervention is a time when you and others who care about the person sit down with them and talk about what the addiction is doing to them. It can help the addicted person to see their problem clearly and agree to get help.

A person who has been abusing more than one drug must go through detox to get the combination out of their system. They need to get clean and may go through rehab to help them understand why they became addicted.

Rehab clinics like Ashwood Recovery deal with multiple drugs in addiction treatment. The program is unique and tailored to each individual based on their addiction and background. Located in the Boise, Idaho area, Ashwood Recovery treats individuals with what is known as cross addiction. This means they are addicted to more than one substance, which may include alcohol. The treatment center specializes in all kinds of drug addictions, including prescription medications, OTC drugs and recreational drugs.

If you’ve been taking medications with alcohol and you don’t feel you can stop on your own, you need to seek out help with an addiction treatment center. Don’t risk your health when professional assistance is available. Contact us here at Ashwood Recovery and start your journey to a new life now.

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15 drugs you should never mix with alcohol-01

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