LiveScience MENU Search

How 8 Common Medications Interact with Alcohol

  • Safely enjoy the holidays

    People raise wine glasses to toast
    CREDIT: Holiday party via Shutterstock holiday-party-toast-131125
    The holidays can be a time of drinking more alcohol than normal.
  • Antidepressants

    A woman holds a handful of pills and a glass of water.
    CREDIT: Pills photo via Shutterstock taking-pills-130603
    How does the placebo effect work?
  • Cholesterol-lowering medications

    CREDIT: Brian Hoskins | Stock Xchng Pills
  • Blood-pressure and heart medications

    pills, medicines, drugs, medications
    CREDIT: psyberartist, via Flickr | Pills
  • Birth-control pills

    Ortho Tri-Cyclen oral contraceptives.
    CREDIT: Public domain birth control pills
    Ortho Tri-Cyclen oral contraceptives.
  • Diabetes medications

    diabetes, diabetes control, A1C, blood pressure
    CREDIT: Dreamstime. Diabetes Blood Test
    People with diabetes often use a blood sugar monitoring device to help them test and control sugar levels.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux and ulcer drugs

    A woman holds two aspirin in her hand.
    CREDIT: Pills photo via Shutterstock aspirin-pills-water-120910
    Aspirin is a common pain reliever used to reduce fever and to lessen mild-to-moderate pain caused by headaches, toothaches, muscle aches, colds, menstrual cramps or arthritis.
  • Painkillers

    CREDIT: Dreamstime Pills
  • Sleeping pills

    Pills & Pharmaceuticals
    CREDIT: © Luzav10 | Pills

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.

Most Popular