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Can I take my medication with alcohol?

alcohol and drugs

Now here is one question I get to answer on a daily basis. ‘Can I take this medicine with alcohol? Often times I tell them it depends on the medication they are taking. However, as a general rule, I advise them to avoid alcohol altogether when on medication. Sounds extreme right? Let me explain.

Many medications do not mix well with alcohol and can lead to harmful effects. This does not apply only to the heavy drinkers some of these effects occur at moderate alcohol levels.

Effects range from causing dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fainting, headaches, loss of consciousness and in some cases, death. How? Alcohol is a depressant (in layman language means to slow down brain functions) and taking other drugs which have that effect (or side effect) can overly cause depression, exposing yourself to the risk of having a complete shut down of brain function.

Women and elderly people are more exposed to the effects of alcohol. Women absorb more alcohol into their bloodstream than men. Elderly people break down alcohol at a slower rate. In both cases, alcohol stays longer in the system.

Now, what do we mean when we advise alcohol and drugs should not be taken at the same time? What is the time interval? Again as a general rule, given alcohol can affect drugs even when not taken at the same time (it stays for sometime in the body). Try stopping your alcohol intake at least a day before treatment and start back 2 days after treatment

This tip however can vary and be more specific for some medicines.

If you are medications for chronic conditions, you should speak with your doctor or pharmacist for help.

Some medicines contain alcohol already like cough syrups, laxatives etc. This requires more attention.

Given many medicines interact with alcohol, it is always important to read drug leaflet or ask your healthcare provider.

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Ekwoge Hilda

Dr. Ekwoge Hilda is a trained pharmacist from Cameroon and Co-founder of HILPharma. When she is not busy creating content, she slings pills to pay the bills.

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