Can We Drink Alcohol While Taking Antibiotics – We’ve all been told to avoid mixing alcohol and antibiotics, although whether you’ve heard that or not is another story.
But why did it happen? Besides getting drunk and forgetting to take medicine. Can drinking while on antibiotics make you sicker than before? Does it change the medicine we take for better or worse? Is it really that important?
Can We Drink Alcohol While Taking Antibiotics
Broadly speaking, an alcohol is a group of organic compounds with one or more hydroxyl groups attached to a hydrocarbon chain. This is some weird chemistry, but a hydrocarbon chain contains only carbon and hydrogen atoms – think of the carbons like the metallic bonds of a bracelet, with the hydrogen atoms separated they are like talismans.
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A hydroxyl group is a hydrogen atom bonded to an oxygen atom, which is attached to a carbon atom of a hydrocarbon chain.
Alcohol is used in solvents, hand sanitizers and cosmetics, but the particular type of alcohol found in the beverages we drink is called ethanol – or ethyl alcohol – which means it has only two carbons in the chain. its hydrocarbons. Ethanol is made by fermenting sugars, usually derived from grains, vegetables, and fruits, with single-celled organisms called yeast.
When you drink small amounts of alcohol, it is immediately broken down or released into acetaldehyde in your stomach. But most of the rest of the alcohol goes into the bloodstream, through the stomach and small intestine, and first into the liver.
After reaching it, only a small amount of alcohol is metabolized, the rest leaves the liver, enters the general circulation and is distributed in the tissues of the body. This is called the “first pass”.
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The remaining alcohol is then returned to your liver for a second and final breakdown by a number of enzymes, proteins that catalyze biochemical reactions, the most important of which are alcohol dehydrogenase and cytochrome P450.
These and other enzymes will eventually break down the alcohol, leaving your body with carbon dioxide and water.
Antibiotics are substances used to treat bacterial infections by killing or stopping bacteria from growing. In the body, antibiotics are eliminated in their active form by the kidneys or metabolized by the liver.
A 2020 review of all available scientific evidence on alcohol-antibiotic interactions found 87 studies that identified alcohol warnings for many common antibiotics. But they found that drinking alcohol while taking many common antibiotics did not cause problems.
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Available data support that several specific antibiotics and two broad-spectrum antibiotics show no adverse interactions when administered with alcohol.
Examples: oral penicillins, the antibiotics cefdinir and cefpodoxime (a group of cephalosporin antibiotics), a broad class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, and the antibiotics azithromycin and tetracycline.
Alcohol can interact with drugs in two different ways. Pharmacokinetic interactions occur when alcohol interferes with drug metabolism or when drugs interfere with alcohol metabolism.
This usually happens when alcohol and certain antibiotics are metabolized in the liver – sometimes by the same enzyme.
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An example of this is the leading anti-tuberculosis antibiotic isoniazid. Isoniazid itself can cause acute liver damage, and alcohol can make it worse.
In alcoholics, cytochrome P450 activity metabolizes only a small fraction of alcohol, but in heavy drinkers who drink 3 to 4 drinks regularly per day, its activity can be increased 10-fold.
When careful, this enhanced activity can speed up the breakdown of antibiotics and alcohol compared to antibiotics which will decrease the breakdown of antibiotics.
The antibiotic erythromycin is used to treat many types of bacterial infections. However, it increases gastric emptying and accelerates gastric emptying, meaning that it reduces alcohol metabolism in the first place, resulting in alcohol being absorbed more quickly in the small intestine.
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In fact, after taking erythromycin, it was found that alcohol levels were higher, increasing by an average of 40%. Unfortunately, alcohol reduces the effectiveness of erythromycin.
Disulfiram is a treatment for severe alcohol abuse. It inhibits an enzyme necessary for alcohol metabolism, causing toxins caused by alcohol metabolism to accumulate rapidly in the blood. This can cause unpleasant effects including flushing, nausea, headache, vomiting, chest pain, dizziness, sweating, thirst, blurred vision, and low blood pressure.
Unfortunately, the reaction occurs with uncertain frequency and varying severity for many antibiotics, so it’s not as simple as targeting one or more antibiotics.
At the end of the day, like all medications, it’s important to clearly discuss the side effects of mixing alcohol with antibiotics with your own healthcare professional.
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Emma Perfetto Emma Perfetto is a science journalist at Cosmos. She holds a Bachelor of Science Honors degree in Science Communication from the University of Adelaide.
There has never been a more important time to unravel facts, nurture evidence-based knowledge, and showcase the latest discoveries in science, technology, and engineering. Cosmos is published by the Royal Australian Institute, dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Donations, large or small, help us deliver reliable scientific information when the world needs it most. Support us by donating or purchasing a subscription today. Most people will take antibiotics at some point in their adult life, which is why we believe it’s important to understand them. One of the most common questions we hear about antibiotics is if it is safe to drink alcohol while taking them. We generally encourage people to talk to their doctor about the specific medication they are taking, but there are some general rules everyone should try to understand.
Alcohol can interact with some antibiotics, which can cause unpleasant or dangerous side effects. These symptoms can vary because there are different types of antibiotics used and each has its own interactions.
The two most important examples are metronidazole and tinidazole. Both antibiotics can cause pain, dizziness, insomnia, general malaise, and other symptoms when combined with alcohol. After the course of treatment, it takes several days to pass through the body, during this time it is better not to drink alcohol.
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Other antibiotics may have their own interactions with alcohol, but are generally less severe. They are very uncomfortable and carry some risks, so it’s better to avoid alcohol while taking antibiotics unless your doctor says the drug is particularly safe.
Beverages are not the only source of alcohol. It is a common ingredient in over-the-counter medicines and mouthwashes. Concentrations are usually very low but in some cases are still sufficient to be therapeutically relevant. It is very easy to get drunk while taking these drugs without checking for interactions. That’s why it’s important to make sure your doctor knows about all the medications you’re taking when prescribing treatment, and that you don’t add new ones without talking to a specialist.
To break down alcohol, the human body depends on a certain set of enzymes. These enzymes break down some antibiotics. Drinking alcohol can inhibit those enzymes, preventing them from properly digesting the antibiotic and doing its job. This increases the possibility of side effects.
Additional effects can also be an issue. This happens when alcohol and antibiotics share the same side effects. This is usually an antibiotic such as metronidazole, a drug that causes depression with alcohol, or any antibiotic that causes stomach upset. Combining the two makes those effects even more powerful. That can lead to serious accidents where it interferes with coordination, and even mild nausea is very uncomfortable.
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We encourage people to avoid alcohol when they feel sick in general, but it is especially important to check for possible complications when taking antibiotics or other medications. The best way to stay safe is to seek medical advice and follow their advice. We all know that drinking alcohol can be harmful to health. Sometimes taking it may not have any side effects, taking it while on antibiotics can cause some side effects. Mixing alcohol with antibiotics can cause and complicate drug side effects.
There are certain types of alcohol that can cause strong and negative side effects when mixed with antibiotics. Antibiotics that react particularly strongly with alcohol include:
Metronidazole (Flagyl): An antibiotic used to treat parasitic and bacterial infections of the stomach, liver, brain, and vagina. Tinidazole (Tindamax): An antibiotic used to treat infections in the intestines and vagina.
While taking these antibiotics, you should abstain from alcohol, beer, wine and avoid mouthwashes or anything containing alcohol.
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