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Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital


Alcohol and Prescription Medications

Caution! Prescripton Drugs and Alcohol don't mix

Prescripton Drugs and Alcohol don't mix

By Health Promotion Disease Prevention Program
Monday, April 18, 2016

Caution! Drinking alcohol while taking prescription medications could be harmful to your health. People often forget alcohol is a drug that can interact with prescription medications.  When used appropriately, medications are typically safe. However, when mixed with alcohol, negative consequences can and do happen.

Alcohol, when used with certain prescription drugs, may cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, fainting, and/or breathing difficulties. It can also increase the risk of other serious complications such as depression, liver damage and heart problems.

Combining alcohol with certain classes of medication can actually cause you to stop breathing and even lead to death. This includes narcotics (certain pain pills and cough suppressants), anxiety medications (like Xanax, Valium, etc.) and prescription sleeping pills.

Drinking alcohol while taking an antidepressant medication may actually worsen depression. When depression gets worse, people may drink more in an effort to feel better. This creates a dangerous cycle that increases the risk of alcohol dependence.

Even some over-the-counter medications are dangerous to use with alcohol. This includes pain medications like ibuprofen or aspirin that can cause bleeding when combined with alcohol.  Tylenol (acetaminophen) when combined with alcohol can damage the liver. 

It is also important to remember that some over-the-counter medications contain up to 10 percent alcohol, including some cold and cough syrups and laxatives. The alcohol in these medications can also cause problems when used with other prescription medications.

If you consume alcohol, be sure to discuss this with your pharmacist or health care provider when considering prescription medications. Become aware of the dangers of mixing alcohol with medications. Your health and wellbeing are at stake!

To learn more about the dangers of mixing alcohol with prescription medications, visit:



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