Caution! Alcohol and Other Drugs Do Not Mix

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Many times students are unaware of the effects of drinking alcohol while on medication. Certain medications such as anti-depressants should never be mixed with alcohol. Students should also be aware that the medical community defines social use or drinking as one to two drinks in an evening or over the weekend. If your Dr. says it is okay to drink on medication it is important to discuss what that means. While some medications may be okay to mix with a “moderate” amount of alcohol, having more than a few drinks can be dangerous. Please make sure if you are on medication that specific guidelines are discussed with your physician about the reality of your choices.

An interaction between alcohol and a drug is described as any change in the properties or effects of the drug when in the presence of alcohol. Drug interactions may be:

  • Additive: The net effect of the drug taken with alcohol is the sum of their effects.
  • Synergistic: The effect of the drug when combined with alcohol is greater than the sum of their effects.
  • Antagonistic: The effect of the drug is diminished in the presence of alcohol.

Since the liver is responsible for metabolizing drugs other than alcohol, potentially dangerous alcohol-drug interactions can occur in both light and heavy drinkers. If you take prescription or over-the-counter medications, ask your health care provider for advice about alcohol intake. Recognize that even herbal medicines and supplements can have adverse interactions with alcohol.

Time Released Capsules

Many cold and allergy medications, over-the-counter painkillers, and vitamins can come in a time-release form. It is important to understand that alcohol dissolves the coating, releasing the full dose immediately instead of being properly delayed, as intended by the manufacturer.

Drug Effects Interactions with Alcohol
Marijuana A 2-4 hour high indicated by bloodshot eyes, slowed motor skills and reaction time, impaired recall, distorted perceptions of time and space. Exacerbates the sedative effect and increases the level of intoxication of both drugs.
Cocaine Mood elevation, euphoria, increased energy, alertness, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, decreased appetite. Alcohol may be used to counteract anxiety and tweaking effects of cocaine. Potentially very dangerous because alcohol also elevates blood pressure, increasing risk for heart attack and stroke.
Hallucinogens Altered perception of all senses, euphoria, anxiety, depersonalization, increased body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, loss of appetite, sleeplessness. Unknown, may counteract anxiety.
Sedatives & Tranquilizers Effects are similar to alcohol, but aggression is less likely. Lowered inhibitions, slowed pulse and breathing, lowered blood pressure, drowsiness. Severe drowsiness, depressed cardiac and pulmonary functions that can be fatal.
Antidepressants Medication may become ineffective and lessen their benefit. The side effects from your medication could also worsen. Some antidepressants cause drowsiness, and so does alcohol. Mixing the two could make you sleepy, which is dangerous in situations where you need to be alert, such as driving, or at work. Studies have proved that even social drinking may impair your ability to react quickly and remain alert while driving, even hours after consuming a single alcoholic drink. Severe drowsiness. A monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), can be very dangerous to mix with alcohol, and could cause a dangerous spike in blood pressure, leading to a stroke.
Opiates Euphoria, constricted pupils, lowered blood pressure and heart rate. Enhances sedative effect of both, increasing the risk of overdose.
Antibiotics Nausea and abdominal pain are fairly common side effects. Most antibiotics are less effective when taken with alcohol, may exacerbate nausea.
Antihistamines Drowsiness, dry mouth. Severe drowsiness.
Aspirin & Ibuprofen Minor side effects include nausea, heartburn, nervousness. Increases the risk for gastrointestinal bleeding.
Antidiabetic/Hypoglycemic Drugs used to treat diabetes and hypoglycemia, such as insulin, combined with alcohol can cause severe and unpredictable reactions. People taking these medications should avoid alcohol at all times.