From the glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner to the champagne toast on New Year's, alcohol is often a familiar sight at holiday celebrations.
But if you're taking one or more medications a day — whether they're over-the-counter or prescription — is it safe to raise a glass or two, or should you avoid drinking altogether?
In some cases, mixing alcohol with medications can be dangerous. Some drugs contain ingredients that can react with alcohol, making them less effective.
Drinking while on other types of medications might have a negative effect on your symptoms or the disease itself. For example, consuming alcohol can reduce blood-sugar levels, leading to poor control of diabetes. [7 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health]
Knocking a few back can also intensify the sleep-inducting effect of medications that may cause drowsiness, making it risky to get behind the wheel or use dangerous machinery.
"The danger of combining alcohol and some medications is real and sometimes fatal," said Danya Qato, a practicing pharmacist and doctoral candidate in health services research at Brown University in Providence, R.I.
"Alcohol works in various and unexpected ways to impact the effectiveness of a medication," Qato told LiveScience.
Older people are at a particularly high risk for drug-alcohol interactions because they often take more medications than younger adults do, and are more susceptible to alcohol's effects on thinking and motor skills, which may result in falls and other injuries. Aging also slows the body's ability to break down alcohol, so its negative effects are felt sooner, and it remains in an older person's bloodstream longer.
Knowing which of the eight common medication classes below may interact harmfully with alcohol, and what side effects may occur as a result, could go a long way toward helping you to enjoy a happier and healthier holiday season.
Be sure to consult your pharmacist or doctor if you have additional questions about the medications you are taking.