It’s an unfortunate fact that medications interact with one another – and even with some nutritional supplements, vitamins, foods, and beverages. Some antibiotics also have harmful effects when they’re mixed with other drugs or with the wrong foods. But what about alcohol? Is it safe to drink alcohol on antibiotics?
Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol on Antibiotics?
If you’re taking an antibiotic for a minor infection and order a drink – will it cause problems? Some antibiotics cause serious side-effects when mixed with alcohol. Examples are Sulfa antibiotics, metronidazole (Flagyl), and Tinidazole. (Tindamax). If you drink even a small amount of alcohol when taking these medications, you could end up with stomach pain, vomiting, flushing, an irregular heartbeat, and headache.
Even if an antibiotic doesn’t have a clear warning on the bottle to avoid alcohol, it’s still best not to imbibe. Alcohol is metabolized by the liver – and so are antibiotics. Since they compete for the same enzymes, alcohol can alter the way antibiotics are broken down. Theoretically, drinking alcohol can increase antibiotic blood levels – as well as the risk of unwanted side effects.
Does Drinking Alcohol While Taking Antibiotics Reduce Their Effectiveness?
In most cases, drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics doesn’t alter their effectiveness. On the other hand, some studies show that alcohol decreases the activity of white blood cells that help to fight-off infection. This is supported by the fact that chronic alcohol users are more prone to bacterial and viral infections. Alcohol may not reduce the effectiveness of an antibiotic, but it could weaken the immune response to the infection that’s being treated. Obviously, this isn’t a good thing.
Another drawback? Alcohol dehydrates you and can make you feel even worse. It also reduces nutrient breakdown and absorption, which isn’t optimal for healing.
Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol on Antibiotics: The Bottom Line?
Sulfa drugs, Flagyl, and Tindamax have serious side effects when combined with even small amounts of alcohol. Avoid drinking alcohol when you’re taking them. Because alcohol alters the metabolism of antibiotics and suppresses the immune system, it’s best to go alcohol-free if you’re taking antibiotics for an infection.
Alcohol Health and Research World. Vol. 21, No. 1. 1997. “Alcohol’s Contribution to Compromised Immunity”
Physician’s Desk Reference. 2010.