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Antibiotics And Alcohol

The combination of antibiotics and alcohol can lead to severe complications. Two significant categories of side effects can emerge from this mix. The first and most prevalent one arises from potentiation, where the effects of both intensify. In this scenario, each substance triggers its usual results, but with an increased severity.

Side Effects

Some of the primary outcomes may include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Diminished motor functions
  • Decreased cognitive reasoning skills
  • Ulcers
  • Permanent liver damage


The second category involves potential interactions between the two, which could lead to outcomes such as:

  • Severe nausea, leading to uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea
  • Potentially fatal dehydration
  • Fever-like symptoms and skin flushing
  • Rapid increase in heart rate
  • Intense headaches


Although not a common occurrence, individuals who mix them  expose themselves to various health risks.

According to the National Institute of Health, “Patients commonly are counseled or their prescription bottles carry a warning sticker to avoid consumption of alcohol while receiving antibiotics.”

Antibiotics, primarily prescribed to combat infections, are complex and mildly toxic, often leading to digestive problems. Typically, infections, when appropriately treated, last a few weeks at most.

Hospital statistics reveal that certain types of antibiotic interactions are quite common. Millions of Americans take antimicrobials, contributing to 25% of all emergency room visits.


Ethanol, a well-understood substance, impairs cognitive function and has mild toxicity. When consumed in moderation, it can induce a mellow sensation in the user. However, when combined with antibiotics in the body, the impact of both escalate through a process known as potentiation.


Part of the problem lies in the fact that the liver processes both substances. This concurrent processing slows down the rate at which both substances are eliminated from the body, effectively increasing the dosage and toxicity levels.

According to Dr. Scott Friedman, dean for therapeutic discovery and chief of the division of liver diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine, “Alcohol can change both the absorption and breakdown of antibiotics by the liver, making them less available in the body to treat the underlying infection for which they are being used.”


The most straightforward way to avoid the risk of interactions is to abstain from alcohol consumption while on antibiotic medication.

Some patients, especially older individuals, are prescribed them as a daily medication. For these individuals, the best way to approach liquor consumption is to discuss it with their prescribing doctor first.

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