Antibiotics and alcohol: If you mix alcohol and tomato juice, you get a Bloody Mary. If you mix alcohol and orange juice, you get a screwdriver. Both of these combinations are tasty.
However, if you mix alcohol with any type of antibiotics, the only thing you are likely to get is a bout of nausea and possibly even a trip to the emergency room.
Two Significant Outcomes
There are two major types of side effects that arise from mixing prescriptions and alcohol. The first, and most common, derives from the fact that mixing the drugs effectively increases the dosage of both drugs. In this case, each drug produces normal side effects for the drug, at increased potency ().
For example, all of the following are even more likely when alcohol and any prescribed antibiotic are mixed:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Decreased motor functions
- Decreased cognitive reasoning skills
- Permanent liver damage
The second way mixing these two drugs incur dangerous side effects is based on interactions between specific types of antibiotics. Specifically, antibiotics such as trimethoprim, sulfamethoxazole, and metronidazole (pyrimidine inhibitor of dihydrofolate reductase) cause severe side effects when interacting with alcohol in the body. These side effects include:
- Severe nausea resulting in uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea
- Potentially deadly dehydration
- Fever-like symptoms and flushing of the skin
- Rapid increase in heart rate
- Severe headaches
While highly uncommon, individuals that mix any antibiotics with alcohol, especially the three noted above, are putting themselves at risk for serious health problems, including, in rare situations, death caused by the drug interactions.
According to hospital statistics, nearly some form of drug and alcohol interaction, with antibiotic interactions being very common. This is due to the fact that millions of Americans take antibiotics every year, causes 25% of all emergency room visits.
Antibiotics And Alcohol – Potentiation
However, when these two drugs are mixed in the body, effectively both drugs are being taken in increased quantities, a process known as potentiation. It part because the same functions of the liver are needed to remove both drugs. This slows down the rate at which both drugs are removed from the body, increasing the effective dosage and toxicity of both drugs.
Alcohol slows down cognitive function and is mildly toxic. When taken in moderation, it can create a mellow feeling in the user and the toxic properties are combated in a timely fashion by the liver, with the only real side effect being an increased need to urinate.
Antibiotics are a more complex drug, primarily prescribed for combating infection. They are actually mildly toxic and removed from the body by the liver. This happens after a medically safe amount of the drug has been excreted into the body in order to perform its primary function.
Antibiotics And Alcohol – Risks & Dangers
Avoiding the danger of antibiotic and alcohol interactions is as easy as simply not drinking alcohol. Infections, when properly treated, only last a few weeks at most, which is not a particularly long time to refrain from drinking alcohol.
However, some patients, particularly older individuals, are prescribed antibiotics as a daily medication. For those individuals, the best way to enjoy alcohol is to discuss the situation with the prescribing doctor. There are options that will allow such patients to enjoy an occasional drink.
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