Almost every type of antibiotic comes with a warning against taking alcohol in combination with that antibiotic. Doxycycline is rather unique because it is one of the rare antibiotics that does not include such a prohibition. Patients that are prescribed doxycycline are quick to notice the difference and commonly ask whether this means it is safe to mix doxycycline and alcohol. The answer to that question, like with many drug interactions, is tricky.
How Safe is it to Mix Doxycycline and Alcohol?
The good news about mixing doxycycline and alcohol is that the chance of death or long-term disability due to mixing the two drugs is lower than other antibiotics. That doesn’t mean that it is wise to mix the drugs, only that the consequences for unwisely mixing the drugs are significantly less dangerous than the consequences from many other drug and alcohol interactions.
Doxycycline delivers a compound to your body that halts the growth of bacteria within your system. By halting the growth of bacteria, the drug allows your body to naturally fight off an infection at a rate faster than it can grow. Normally, the compound lingers in your body for long enough that your immune system wins the battle.
The rule of thumb that alcohol should be avoided when taking just about any type of medication applies to doxycycline just as much as it does to any other drug. Thankfully, the consequences of breaking that rule are generally less dangerous.
However, when you imbibe alcohol, the length of time that the compound remains in your body is greatly reduced, because your liver will flush the compound from your body while it is flushing alcohol from your body. Essentially, the alcohol registers as a poison and your liver goes into overdrive removing any foreign agents from your body. As a result, the doxycycline provides a significantly reduced benefit.
Is Any Amount of Doxycycline and Alcohol Wise?
Assuming you discuss your intent to drink alcohol with your doctor in advance, it is possible to drink alcohol with doxycycline and still get the intended effect from the drug. If a doctor knows that a patient intends to drink alcohol, and is given a good sense of what quantities the alcohol will be consumed in, the doctor can adjust dosage to provide the required effect, despite the interference of alcohol.
Even if a doctor hasn’t been consulted, a patient who is taking doxycycline can imbibe small amounts of alcohol, approximately equal to one or two glasses of wine or cans of beer per day with minimal negative effects, if that alcohol is generally consumed slowly.
Are There Side Effects to Mixing Doxycycline and Alcohol?
As previously mentioned, doxycycline and alcohol do not have any meaningful interaction side effects. However, doxycycline does share some common side effects with alcohol, which means such side effects are likely to be more intense than usual when a patient takes both drugs in combination.
The following side effects are shared by both Doxycycline and alcohol:
- Dehydration and darkening of urine
- Fatigue and decreased cognitive abilities
- Nausea and vomiting
- Liver damage, especially over long durations of use
Furthermore, if a patient experiences unexpected medical problems from doxycycline, including a possible, if rare, allergic reaction, the presence of alcohol in the system, and competing side effects from alcohol, can make it more difficult for a medical professional to provide treatment for a patient in distress.