In today’s world of modern medicine, prescription medication is used to treat any number of illnesses and conditions. In a 2015 study, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that about 42% of Americans admit to drinking and taking prescription medication. While the common belief is that the warnings are merely suggestions, and no real harm can come from mixing commonly used medications with alcohol, the truth couldn’t be more serious.
Even the most health-conscious people can have misconceptions about the medication they’re taking. A common belief is that any medicine taken is out of the system by later that day, or perhaps even the next day. Unfortunately, even common medication can take up to three to five days to be entirely out of the body. Some prescription medication is only meant to work after building up in the system over the course of multiple doses. These take even longer for the body to flush from the system, leaving a person’s system susceptible to reactions when mixed with alcohol. For more information on drug interactions and a detailed list of even more medications, check the FDA’s drug resource page.
Top Six Most Commonly Used Medications
1. Cough Medicines
The dextromethorphan can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and increased risk for overdose.
2. Sleep Medications
The active ingredients (Zolpidem, Eszopiclone, Estazolam, Temazepam, Diphenhydramine, Doxylamine) in most prescription sleep aids such as Ambien, Lunesta, and others can cause drowsiness, sleepiness, dizziness, slowed or difficulty breathing, impaired motor control, unusual behavior, and memory problems.
3. Allergy and Cold & Flu Medications
These all have side effects of their own, and when mixed with alcohol those side effects are magnified. On top of that, most contain acetaminophen and can cause the same issues as drinking while taking Tylenol.
4. Pain and Fever Over the Counter
For such easily obtainable medications, these have some heavy reactions when mixed with alcohol. In addition to upset stomach, bleeding and ulcers, and rapid heartbeat, the acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) can cause liver damage.
We’re well past the vague sleepiness. When mixed with alcohol, most antibiotic treatments such as Nizoral, Seromycin, and Zithromax can cause fast heartbeat, sudden changes in blood pressure (which is no good for the heart), stomach pain, vomiting, headache, liver damage, and a flushing or redness of the face.
It’s also worth noting that alcohol mutes the body’s systems, so even if the particular antibiotic treatment you’re taking doesn’t have a negative effect when mixed with alcohol, the alcohol itself interferes with the body’s ability to fight off the infection. Either way, you’re best just leaving off the booze until the infection has been cured.
6. Anxiety and Depression Medication
In addition to feeling drowsy and dizzy, some depression medication can bring on feelings of depression and hopelessness when mixed with alcohol.
Parents Be Aware
Drinking while taking medicine is clearly dangerous, both for adults or young people. In a 2013 study, the NSDUH reported approximately 5.4 million people between the ages of 12-20 engaged in binge drinking. Fortunately, there are programs available if you notice any of the following warning signs of your child or someone you know:
- Slurred speech
- Problems with coordination
- Memory and/or concentration problems
- Changing groups of friends
- Academic and/or behavioral problems in school
In the end, be aware of what you’re putting in your body. With reactions like these, it’s never worth the risk. Be safe out there.
Tyler Jacobson is a father, husband, and writer, with past experience in content writing and outreach for parent and troubled teen programs. Tyler has offered advice and humor to readers on parenting struggles, problems in education, all things social media, addiction, and pressing issues with raising a teenager today. Connect with Tyler on: Twitter | Linkedin