The 4 medications you should never drink alcohol on
15th November 2021

AS the temperature drops and winter rolls in, many of us will be suffering with coughs and colds.

But we also want to socialise with friends and family which can also mean indulging in booze.

If you're suffering from an illness and taking medication, it's important to know whether or not you can safely consume alcohol whilst on them.

When prescribed your medication, each pack should come with a patient information leaflet (PIL).

This helps detail exactly how you should take the medication and how often and it's important that you read through this thoroughly before you start taking it.

This is even more important if you're planning on consuming alcohol as booze can alter your body’s natural state, for example altering blood pressure, temperature and hydration levels, which could be dangerous when taken alongside medication.

When it comes to mixing medicine with alcohol, there are some rules that you should always abide by.

For example, you shouldn't drink on medication that makes you feel drowsy, can alter your blood sugar or medicines for high blood pressure.

You should also stay away from booze if you are prescribed painkillers – especially opiates, medications for mental health conditions and any medicines that are broken down in the liver as drinking can cause less to be broken down so levels become higher.

This week is alcohol awareness week and pharmacist Scott McDougall, co-founder of The Independent Pharmacy said that it's concerning when patients need to be treated for side effects caused by mixing medication with alcohol consumption. 

He explained: "It’s vital that patients take medication dosages seriously and follow their doctor or pharmacist's advice on whether or not they can consume alcohol alongside their medication. 

"Remember, it’s always best to treat any medical issues you’re facing quickly and effectively with the appropriate medication and following the guidelines to the letter.” 

Elderly patients should also take extra care and should assess their medication needs and alcohol consumption with their GP or pharmacist.

Scott has listed the four most common medications you shouldn't consume alcohol with, but you should always check the label of any medication you are prescribed.

1. Propranolol

Propranolol is a prescription-only, beta-blocker medication used to treat and provide symptom relief for a range of health conditions, including anxiety, heart problems and migraines, Scott says.

"Propranolol is designed to lower your blood pressure, slow your heart rate down and reduce the force of each beat.

"Alcohol can also lower your blood pressure, so mixing Propranolol and alcohol is not advised as it can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, dizziness, nausea, light-headedness and even fainting. 

"Health professionals advise avoiding alcohol when on Propranolol. If you are taking Propranolol, speak to your GP or pharmacist to see whether you need to avoid alcohol completely or if you need a unit limit depending on the type of prescription you are taking", he added.

2. Antibiotics 

It is advised to avoid drinking alcohol when taking antibiotics, particularly if you’re feeling unwell as alcohol consumption may slow down the speed of your recovery. 

Scott explained: "There are a few antibiotics that require you to avoid drinking alcohol completely when taking them.

"Metronidazole, which is typically prescribed for dental treatment or to clear infected ulcers, and Tinidazole which is often prescribed to clear infections and tackle unwanted gut bacteria. 

"Combining alcohol with these two antibiotics can have painful side effects including stomach pain, vomiting, hot flushes and a fast or irregular heartbeat."

He added that you should also be wary of Linezolid and Doxycycline.  

However, he added that it is unlikely that alcohol consumption will cause problems if you are taking the most common antibiotics so check with your doctor or pharmacist when collecting your prescription if you’re okay to drink alcohol in moderation while taking the medication. 

The side effects you need to know if you have consumed alcohol with medication

If you have consumed alcohol while taking additional medication and experienced an adverse response then you should seek additional medical advice

Some common reactions include:

  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Severe headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Abnormal behaviour
  • Loss of coordination
  • Accidents
  • Depression 

3. Cold & flu medication 

Many people across the UK will currently be taking cold and flu medication as they battle the 'worst cold ever'.

Scott says over the counter cold and flu medication can react with alcohol and could cause intense drowsiness and dizziness. 

He added: "This is especially important if you intend on driving. Of course, you should never drive when over the legal limit, but drinking alongside taking cold and flu medication (even a single drink) could compromise your usual alertness and reaction time as both substances can cause drowsiness and a lack of concentration."

4. Heartburn medications: Zantac 

One of the most common over the counter medications, heartburn tablets, gels or liquids should be consumed with caution when drinking alcohol, Scott says.

"This is because when mixed with alcohol some medications can cause tachycardia (rapid heart beating) and sudden changes in blood pressure. 

"Certain heartburn medications, such as Zantac (ranitidine), can also make the effects of alcohol more intense and impair the judgement of the individual."

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