‘Tis the season for holiday parties and cocktails. However, the combination of alcohol and medicines, whether prescription or over-the-counter, can lead to life-threatening consequences depending on the medicine, the amount of alcohol consumed, and differences such as body size or age.
Alcohol can interact with medicines in several ways:
– Alcohol can change the amount of medicine the body absorbs. This can cause a toxic amount of the drug to accumulate in the body.
– Alcohol’s effects on the central nervous system can make the risk of drowsiness and impaired motor function caused by medicine more likely.
– Alcohol can increase the risk of side effects from medicines; for example, lowered blood pressure and stomach irritation.
Drug interactions with alcohol may not affect everyone the same way. For example, a woman who drinks the same amount as a man may be at more risk for an interaction because of her smaller body size, which results in her alcohol level being higher. Elderly individuals who drink alcohol may have more drowsiness and motor impairment than their younger counterparts when they combine alcohol with another medicine that causes drowsiness. People who regularly consume large quantities of alcohol are at more risk of some types of interactions than those who only have an occasional drink.