Did you know that even moderate alcohol consumption can interact with various prescription and even over-the-counter drugs?
The activity of many medications can be affected by the consumption of alcohol, ranging from common allergy medications, antibiotics to antidepressants. The effect differs per type of medication, if it’s occasional or chronic alcohol use and can depend on other factors such as age, race, gender or genetics. There are two general ways in which alcohol can alter the effect of medications.
Firstly it can change the way the drug is metabolized. This can result in two different consequences. In some cases alcohol competes with the metabolizing enzymes necessary to break down the drug. This will lead to a delay in the breakdown of the drug in question which prolongs the availability and effect of the drug, potentially leading to harmful side effects.
In other cases alcohol can accelerate the metabolism of the medication by activating certain enzymes and thus decreasing the availability and effect of the drug.
Secondly, alcohol and drug interaction can enhance each other’s effect. This is often the case with medications with a sedative effect, leading to extreme drowsiness and increasing the risk of accidents. If you are currently or in the future taking any type of medication, whether it is over-the-counter or prescription, always make sure to check the warning labels for possible harmful interactions.
Drug Interaction Classification
The classifications below are general guidelines only. It is difficult to determine the relevance of a particular drug interaction to any individual given the large number of variables.
- Major – Highly clinically significant. Avoid combinations; the risk of the interaction outweighs the benefit.
- Moderate – Moderately clinically significant. Usually avoid combinations; use it only under special circumstances.
- Minor – Minimally clinically significant. Minimize risk; assess risk and consider an alternative drug, take steps to circumvent the interaction risk and/or institute a monitoring plan.
Common substances checked in combination with alcohol:
- fish oil (omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids)
- vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)
- do not swallow your medicine with alcohol
- do not drink alcohol after you have taken your medicine
- do no take your medicine after you have had alcohol to drink
- ask your doctor or your pharmacist if combining alcohol with your medication might cause any damages.
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