Antibiotics And Alcohol Interaction

  • Dana VisnitchiMSci, Neuroscience with Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland
  • Shazia AsimPhD Scholar (Pharmacology), University of Health Sciences Lahore, Pakistan

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Has your physician ever prescribed you antibiotics, and your first question was to ask if you can consume alcohol? Well, many have done this, and it is important to understand why you should avoid mixing the two. 

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, and they shouldn’t be taken with alcohol, as alcohol could decrease their effect, and alcohol and antibiotics have similar side effects like dizziness or nausea, or may even lead to liver and kidney damage. 

This article will aim to explain how antibiotics work and what happens when they are mixed with alcohol, including the side effects and the potential harmful effect on your body. So keep scrolling to learn more!

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are strong medications used to treat or prevent the spread of harmful bacterial infections. While your body contains bacteria that are beneficial for your health, others can make you sick. Hence, antibiotics are prescribed to fight them. 

Antibiotics are prescribed to treat a wide range of medical conditions, such as:1

What happens if you mix alcohol with antibiotics?

Alcohol ingestion can change the effects antibiotics have on your body, and it can also cause some problems.

These antibacterial medications may induce side effects including nausea, dizziness, diarrhoea, upset stomach, yeast infection, and rashes.2 Adding alcohol to the mix, can worsen the mentioned issues. In addition, if you drink alcoholic beverages while on certain antibiotics, you could potentially suffer from liver dysfunction.3

You should always consult your general practitioner (GP) if you are unsure about having alcoholic drinks while taking antibiotics, but here are some it is best to avoid drinking alcohol while on them3

  • Metronidazole: this antibiotic is prescribed to treat skin, mouth, and vaginal infections
  • Tinidazole: an antibiotic prescribed to treat vaginal infections as well as harmful bacteria in the gut
  • Linezolid: this antibiotic is prescribed to treat bacterial pneumonia, skin infections, UTIs, and wound infections

Further, you should wait 72 hours, to have an alcoholic drink, after you finish taking metronidazole and tinidazole, to ensure it is out of your system, otherwise, you might experience some adverse effects like:1,3

  • Headaches
  • Flushes
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach cramps
  • Irregular heart rate

Moreover, if you have high blood pressure, it is not recommended to mix linezolid with alcohol, as it may increase it even more. 

Does alcohol affect how antibiotics work?

Usually, if you consume a bit of alcohol while medicating with common antibiotics you might not experience any problems, however, the interaction between the two can make you feel the previously mentioned side effects even more. 

In addition, depending on the antibiotic you are taking, and the quantity of alcohol you consume, the effectiveness of the medication might be affected. This  happens because the liver enzymes that metabolise, or break down, antibiotics are the same that remove alcohol from your system.4 Consequently, the  change in the activity of these enzymes can lead to:

  • Elevated levels of alcohol in your system, which your liver enzymes will try to remove, therefore, these enzymes will not be as good at metabolising the antibiotics in your body, causing their concentration to increase, which will lead to drug toxicity and pronounced side effects
  • On the contrary, constant daily ingestion of alcohol can increase the enzyme levels which will cause the drugs (alcohol and antibiotics) to be removed more rapidly from your body. This decrease in antibiotic concentration will not be enough to cure your bacterial infection. As a consequence, you may have to increase the dose of medication, which could result in antibiotic resistance,, and the infection will be difficult to treat2,4

Can I skip a dose of antibiotics?

Although you might be tempted to skip taking antibiotics one day, so you can drink alcoholic beverages, this is not a good idea, and it will affect your health. Firstly, by not taking your medication, even if it is just one dose, the antibiotic won’t have its full effect, so the bacterial infection will keep spreading.

Secondly, even if you decide to forego the medication for the day, you might still experience the side effects of the interaction of the alcohol with the antibiotics, as it takes your body several days to completely metabolise the medicines from your organism. 

Thus, to heal, you must complete the regimen of antibiotics your physician prescribed you. 

Responsible use of antibiotics and alcohol 

Here are some things you should consider if you need to medicate with antibiotics:

  • They are only prescribed for bacterial infections, hence, you should not use them to treat a common cold or a viral infection. If you misuse these medicines when it is not necessary, you will build antibiotic resistance, which will make it harder for you to heal
  • Sometimes people are allergic to certain antibiotics like penicillin. If you experience an allergic reaction after taking the medicine, go immediately to the hospital to control it and ensure you are safe, and afterward inform your GP, and have them prescribe you an alternative
  • You should completely avoid drinking alcohol during the period you are being treated with antibiotics, so the alcohol interaction with these drugs doesn’t cause you side effects or slow down your healing process
  • If you want to have a drink during your treatment, ask your healthcare provider to explain whether it is safe to have an alcoholic beverage with the specific medication that your GP prescribed you. Follow your physician's recommendations
  • Read the prospect of the antibiotic carefully to use it responsibly, and to be aware of any possible side effects that medicine might cause
  • If you do consume alcohol during your regimen with antibiotics, make sure you drink responsibly, and moderately
  • If you suffer from alcohol addiction, and you need an anti-bacterial medication, please inform your GP so they can take the appropriate measures and develop a suitable treatment plan for you
  • If you have any concerns, doubts, or questions about antibiotics, or how to use them, don’t hesitate to ask medical experts. Being educated about this topic is important, and can help you stay safe
  • You can browse the internet to find out more about a specific antibacterial, however, it is recommended you consult a GP first

Summary

Antibiotics are medications used to treat harmful bacterial infections. Sometimes, they can cause side effects including dizziness, stomach cramps, drowsiness, vomiting, and headaches. Mixing alcohol with antibiotics can produce adverse reactions, like experiencing the mentioned side effects, and it could also lead to liver and kidney damage. In addition, consuming excessive levels of alcohol could lead to either drug toxicity or a slower healing process and the development of antibiotic resistance. Alcohol should be avoided until the regimen of antibiotics is completed and your body receives adequate rest and nutrition. Furthermore, it is important your GP explains to you how this medication works to clarify any possible doubts and concerns that you might have, and you should follow their recommendations for responsible use of alcohol and antibiotics.

FAQ’s

Is it okay not to take antibiotics on time?

While you should try to take your medications on time, if you miss a dose, you should keep taking the recommended dosage prescribed by your general practitioner, until you complete your treatment. Don’t try to increase the next dose, as it might cause adverse effects.

Does alcohol hit harder on antibiotics?

Yes, antibiotics can make you feel more intoxicated, and the interaction of this medication with alcohol can also enhance vomiting, nausea, and dizziness. Please, do not try to mix alcohol and antibiotics or other medication on purpose to get drunk, as it could be dangerous!

How long do you have to wait after taking antibiotics to drink alcohol?

Depending on what antibiotic you were prescribed, you might need to wait 48-72 hours to be able to drink alcohol. While this information might come on the medication’s prospect, you should ask your healthcare provider when it would be safe for you to start drinking.

References

  1. nhs.uk [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Dec 12]. Antibiotics. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antibiotics/
  2. Patel P, Wermuth HR, Calhoun C, Hall GA. Antibiotics. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 Dec 12]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535443/
  3. Mergenhagen KA, Wattengel BA, Skelly MK, Clark CM, Russo TA. Fact versus fiction: a review of the evidence behind alcohol and antibiotic interactions. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy [Internet]. 2020 Mar [cited 2023 Dec 12];64(3). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7038249/
  4. Singh P, Verma N, Kumar P, Nagu P. Review on a potential of antibiotics. J Drug Delivery Ther [Internet]. 2018 Oct 15 [cited 2023 Dec 12];8(5-s):35–40. Available from: http://jddtonline.info/index.php/jddt/article/view/1936

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Dana Visnitchi

MSci, Neuroscience with Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

I’m an early career with a degree in Neuroscience with Psychology, who is passionate about mental health, and aims to promote it to a large audience without a scientific background. I’m also interested in skincare and cardiovascular health, and always keen to expand my knowledge. I have previous experience in literature search, creating content for different audiences, and making contributions to a published research paper about Gender Dysphoria. I’m currently focused on exploring medical communications to have a significant impact on the healthcare community.

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