Alcohol and Medicines—What You Need to Know

Many medicines, both prescription and over-the-counter, can be dangerous when mixed with alcohol. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can safely drink alcohol whenever you get a new prescription or start a new over-the-counter medicine.

Here are some examples of problems caused by mixing alcohol with certain medicines.

  • If you take aspirin and drink, your risk of stomach or intestinal bleeding is increased.
  • When combined with alcohol, cold and allergy medicines (the label will say “antihistamines”) may make you feel very sleepy.
  • Alcohol used with large doses of acetaminophen, a common painkiller, may cause liver damage.
  • Some medicines, such as cough syrups and laxatives, have high alcohol content. If you drink at the same time, your alcohol level will go up.
  • Alcohol used with some sleeping pills, pain pills, or anxiety/depression medicine can be deadly.

Learn more about alcohol’s interactions with prescription drugs from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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