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Think Before You Drink

We all have that one friend who insisted on going out on Saturday night despite being sick. Besides spreading germs and probably extending their illness by trading rest for socializing, that friend also may have risked their health by drinking alcohol while taking medication.

October marks the National Council on Patient Information and Education’s (NCPIE) 32nd Talk About Your Medicines Month . Talk About Your Medicines Month is an annual opportunity to focus attention on the value that better communication can play in promoting better medicine use and better health outcomes. This year’s theme is “Think Before You Drink – sometimes, alcohol and medicines don't mix.”

According to the NCPIE, these common prescription medications may display a label warning not to consume alcohol while taking them:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anxiety or depression medication
  • Arthritis medication
  • Blood thinners
  • Cold and allergy medication
  • Diabetes medication
  • Epilepsy/seizure medication
  • Heart burn medication
  • Heart medication
  • High blood pressure medication
  • High cholesterol medication
  • Medication for enlarged prostate
  • Pain relievers
  • Sedatives or sleep aids

What’s the worst that could happen? The effects of mixing medications and alcohol vary greatly from drug to drug and person to person. Risks include:

  • Impaired breathing
  • Memory problems
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in blood pressure

It is important to remember that medications remain in your body for at least several hours, so you could still experience adverse effects if you drink alcohol hours after taking your prescription. All of these risks are higher in older adults.

Always ask your pharmacist or doctor if you have any questions about drinking alcohol while you are taking a prescription medication. The NCPIE Be MedWise website is also full of great information for Talk About Your Medicines Month .

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