Mixing Alcohol and Prescription Drugs – The Big Gamble

Many people with a drinking problem are also using pills for an array of reasons. It is a good idea to know the risks involved from mixing alcohol with these drugs. Here is a list of some of the results that can be expected when mixing drinking with pills.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics as we know are used to treat infectious diseases. In combination with acute alcohol consumption, some antibiotics can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, and in more extreme cases convulsions. At the very least, alcohol consumption decreases or nullifies the effects of the antibiotic. In other words, there is no point in taking antibiotics if you are drinking because the antibiotic won’t work and you won’t experience any of the benefits of the antibiotic
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Antidepressants

Alcoholism and depression frequently go hand in hand, leading to a very good chance of alcohol-antidepressant interactions. Alcohol increases the sedative effect of tricyclic antidepressants such as Elavil and other similar drugs, impairing the mental skills required for say, driving. This is because acute (drinking on a regular basis) alcohol consumption increases the availability of some tricyclics, potentially increasing their sedative effects. Also there is a chemical called tyramine, found in some beers and wine that will interact with some anti-depressants, resulting in a dangerous rise in blood pressure, and if it goes high enough can result in stroke. Even just one drink can set the stage for an interaction like this.

Anti-diabetic Medication

Oral hypoglycemic drugs are prescribed to help lower blood sugar levels in some patients with diabetes. Chronic alcohol consumption decreases the availability of these needed drugs in your system. Alcohol also interacts with some drugs of this class to produce symptoms of nausea and headache. In addition to the potential drug interaction, while moderate amounts of alcohol can cause blood sugar to rise, excess alcohol can actually decrease your blood sugar level — sometimes causing it to drop into dangerous levels.

When diabetics run into serious departures from the correct blood sugar levels, it results in organic degeneration.

Antihistamines

Drugs like Benadryl and similar drugs in this family are available without prescription to treat allergic symptoms and insomnia. Alcohol can intensify the sedation caused by some antihistamines, causing slower reactions and poor judgment. These drugs may cause excessive dizziness and sedation more intensely in older people.

Antipsychotic Medications

Drugs such as Thorazine for example are used to diminish psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations. Acute alcohol consumption increases the sedative effect of these drugs resulting in impaired coordination and potentially fatal breathing problems. Further, the combination of chronic alcohol ingestion and antipsychotic drugs can accelerate liver damage.

Antiseizure Drugs

These drugs are prescribed mainly to treat epilepsy. Chronic drinking can significantly reduce the patient’s protection against the epileptic seizures, even during a period of abstinence.

Cardiovascular medications

These drugs include a variety of medications prescribed to treat heart problems and issues with the circulatory system. Acute alcohol consumption interacts with some of these drugs to cause dizziness or fainting when attempting to standing up. These drugs include nitroglycerin used for angina, and most of the medications used to treat high blood pressure.

Chronic alcohol consumption decreases the high blood pressure medication in your system reducing its effect and leaving you more vulnerable to the problem the drug has been taken to alleviate.

Narcotic Pain Medication

These drugs are prescribed for pain. They include the opiates morphine, codeine, Darvon, and Demerol. The combination of opiates and alcohol enhances the sedative effect of both substances, increasing the risk of death from an overdose.

Non-narcotic Pain Prescriptions

Aspirin and this type of nonprescription pain reliever, on their own some of these drugs cause stomach bleeding and inhibit blood from clotting. Mixed with alcohol can increase these effects. This can result in episodes of gastric bleeding. In addition, aspirin may increase the potency of the alcohol, increasing the effects of drinking.

Chronic alcohol ingestion activates enzymes that transform acetaminophen type drugs like Tylenol and others into chemicals that can cause liver damage, even when acetaminophen is used in commonly used (or lower) amounts.

Sedatives – Sleeping Pills/Tranquilizers

Benzodiazepines such as Valium are used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Doses of benzodiazepines can cause severe drowsiness in the presence of alcohol, increasing the risk of household and car accidents, and in the right combination, can result in depressed heart and breathing functions. Low doses of Dalmane interact with low doses of alcohol to impair driving ability, even when alcohol is ingested the morning after actually taking the Dalmane. Since many alcoholics often suffer from anxiety and insomnia, and since many of them take morning drinks, this interaction may be dangerous.

The benzodiazepine Ativan is used for anti-anxiety and sedative effects. The combination of alcohol and Ativan can result in depressed heart and breathing functions.

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