In 2020, during the first few months of the pandemic, 20% of adults were found to be drinking more alcohol than usual. Off-premise spirits sales increased by 34.1%, wine sales went up by 30.1% and beer sales went up by 12.6%. 

This increase initially makes sense: fewer people are able to drink socially at a venue and are therefore drinking the same amount at home instead. However, the blurring between the home and workplace, combined with rising levels of unemployment and the doom and gloom on our TV screens, has led to an increase in alcohol consumption in general.

While we understand that alcohol consumption is often used as a means to cope with mental distress, adults are now drinking at times when they usually would not – including when they are taking drugs for conditions or illnesses. To warn of the effects of drinking with medication, we have provided a brief guide below. 

woman checking meds label

Pain medication

There are multiple forms of pain medication [LINK: Mapping Pain Relief To Pain], most of which you cannot mix with alcohol. The reasons for this vary, but the most common reason is that the side effects can exacerbate your condition and even cause irreparable damage.

Opioids

In the case of opioids like oxycodone or morphine, the danger is the threat of addiction. Sadly, this is a common occurrence in the US, which has long been fighting an opioid epidemic, with approximately 130 people dying every day from opioid-related overdoses. 

The purpose of the drug is to relieve you of chronic pain. However, when combined with alcohol, you intensify the negative symptoms such as drowsiness – and it is this which is dangerous as it can slow down your breathing rate. Without enough oxygen, your brain will start to shut down other organs and systems within the body. In some cases, it can lead to brain damage or even death should you fall into a coma.

Tylenol

Otherwise known as acetaminophen, Tylenol is used to relieve minor aches or pains. It is possible to have up to three alcoholic drinks with Tylenol, but beyond that you risk permanent damage to your liver. For this reason, we would avoid mixing it with alcohol altogether as your limit depends on the health of your liver, which naturally varies from person to person.

Tylenol causes damage when mixed as it can only be broken down by the enzymes that your liver produces. Alcohol restricts the number of enzymes you produce, preventing Tylenol from being broken down. Instead, it converts into a harmful substance that is difficult for your liver to remove and subsequently attacks it.

Ibuprofen

Advil or Motrin are both reasonably safe to take with moderate alcohol consumption. Too much alcohol, however, can cause you to suffer stomach pains or irritation. This is why we would still advise that those with sensitive stomachs avoid the combination and instead wait until they no longer need to take the ibuprofen.

When a person takes ibuprofen for a long period of time, or in high doses, they increase their risk of gastric ulcers or bleeding in the digestive tract. Alcohol similarly troubles both the stomach and tract, and therefore mixing the two increases your likelihood of discomfort.

Blood pressure and cholesterol medication

Both high blood pressure and cholesterol levels require long-term medication. For this reason, it is harder to avoid mixing with alcohol. Your doctor will therefore urge you to be cautious about how much you consume on a regular basis.

Hypertension

In the case of blood pressure, and drugs such as Norvasc and Lopressor, it is generally fine to drink in moderation. However, be conscious of the fact that drinking can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and fluctuating blood pressure.

As long as you exercise a sufficient amount a week and try to limit your alcohol consumption to two drinks a day, you should remain in good health. There are a variety of solutions available for high blood pressure, so it is always worth consulting your doctor on the side effects of each before you decide to mix them with alcohol.

Hypercholesterolemia

Likewise, drugs such as Lipitor or Zocor are both reasonably safe to drink with, provided you maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you drink in excess, you can elevate your triglyceride level and give yourself liver damage. This is especially true if you take statins.

As always, drinking low volumes of alcohol is the best course of action. However, if you are able to reduce your levels of cholesterol through exercise and eating less fatty foods, then you may be able to drink the same amount of alcohol as a healthy adult of a similar age.

Anti-anxiety and depression medication

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that regular drinking can reduce the effectiveness of antidepressants and make the symptoms of depression worse. For example, alcohol can exacerbate any dizziness, drowsiness or confusion you may be feeling, making it harder to maintain your daily routine.

Despite it not causing additional physical harm to your body, if your doctor has recommended that you take anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication, it is best not to mix it with alcohol. Avoid drinking entirely until you have finished your course of medication.

Don’t forget…

While the above are recommendations from our experts, there really is no one better qualified than your doctor to discuss the level of alcohol consumption you can indulge in.

However, if you are nearing the end of your current prescription for any of the medication mentioned above, we would be more than happy to arrange for a refill to be shipped out to you. If you have any questions about our online pharmacy service, you can call us on 1-866-500-6633 (toll-free phone number). Alternatively, feel free to request a callback.