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The Risks of Mixing Alcohol and Prescription Drugs

The Risks of Mixing Alcohol and Prescription Drugs

Mixing alcohol and prescription drugs can put you at risk of various severe side effects, such as overdose, seizures, heart problems, and death.

When you are prescribed medication by your doctor, it is important to follow their instructions closely for dosage and timing. Taking more or less of your medication than you should can interfere with its effectiveness and increase potential side effects. But what you may not have considered is whether it is safe to drink alcohol with your prescription. Many people experience adverse effects when they mix alcohol and prescription drugs, not realizing the probable interaction. You can protect yourself by getting to know more about alcohol's interaction with your prescription before taking a drink. 

If you discover that your medication should not be mixed with alcohol, but you are having a hard time abstaining from drinking, reach out to Confidant Health. We offer a convenient virtual alcohol rehab where you will receive regular support from a friendly, experienced care team, which includes a recovery coach. Download our app today to start getting the help you need to remove alcohol from your life.

What Are the Effects of Drinking Alcohol and Taking Prescription Drugs?

You probably already know that prescription drugs can have adverse side effects. What you may not know is that drinking alcohol with certain medications can amplify the effects or prevent your medication from working as well as it should.

Mixing alcohol with prescription drugs can lead to long-term health issues, such as:

  • Addiction
  • Brain damage
  • Heart problems
  • Internal bleeding
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Stroke

Drinking while taking prescription drugs can also exacerbate mental health conditions or increase the risk of developing one.

Effects of Mixing Alcohol with Common Prescription


Many people combine alcohol and common prescription drugs without realizing it can put them in danger. Some may not realize there are alcohol interactions with certain medications, especially if the interactions resemble the effects of the medication. But others intentionally mix alcohol with prescription drugs to achieve an enhanced euphoria. Drinking alcohol while taking prescription drugs can be hazardous and even life-threatening, so it is vital that you learn how your medication interacts with alcohol.

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Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and when combined with other depressant medications, like benzodiazepines, the effects are more potent. Benzodiazepines, also referred to as benzos, are prescribed to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and insomnia. Some common prescription benzodiazepines are:

  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Klonopin
  • Ativan
  • Restoril

Drinking alcohol can lead to the following interactions when mixed with benzodiazepines:

  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Loss of coordination and balance
  • Memory loss and blackouts
  • Mood swings
  • Sedation
  • Slurred speech

Combining alcohol with benzodiazepines can have potentially fatal effects since both substances slow down bodily functions like breathing. In some cases, your breathing can slow to dangerous levels or stop altogether.


Like benzodiazepines, opioids are depressant drugs, so they will amplify the sedating effects of alcohol. They are prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain from an injury, surgery, or chronic condition. Opioids are also referred to as painkillers. Some common prescription opioids are:

  • Fentanyl
  • Oxycontin
  • Percocet
  • Tylenol with codeine
  • Vicodin

Drinking while taking prescription opioids can lead to the following effects:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Memory loss and blackouts
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures

Combining opioids and alcohol can slow your breathing and heart rate to dangerously low levels. This can cause coma, respiratory arrest, and even fatality.


Antidepressants help to elevate mood, increase concentration, and improve sleep by balancing brain neurotransmitters correlated with mood and emotions. They are used to treat clinical depression but may also be prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders, severe phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some common prescription antidepressants are:

  • Celexa
  • Lexapro
  • Paxil
  • Prozac
  • Zoloft

Consuming alcohol while taking antidepressants can result in the following interactions:

  • Drowsiness
  • High blood pressure
  • Loss of coordination
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Worsened anxiety and depression symptoms

Alcohol can interfere with the functioning of antidepressants, making them less effective. And since some antidepressants can cause drowsiness, combining them with alcohol will intensify drowsiness, impairing your ability to safely operate a vehicle or machinery.


Stimulants are designed to increase alertness, energy, and focus by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. They are prescribed to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Taking stimulants while drinking can mask the sedating effects of the alcohol. Some common prescription stimulants are:

  • Adderall
  • Concerta
  • Dexedrine
  • Ritalin
  • Vyvanse

Combining stimulant drugs with alcohol can lead to:

  • Alcohol poisoning or overdose
  • Blackout
  • Damage to the brain
  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Loss of coordination
  • Severe dehydration
  • Sudden death

Since the energizing quality of stimulants counteracts the depressant effects of alcohol, you may not realize you are as intoxicated as you are. This may cause you to drink larger amounts of alcohol, which can be dangerous and even life-threatening.

What Common Prescription Drugs Should Not Be Mixed with Alcohol?

When prescribed certain medications, you may be advised to limit your drinking. But with other common prescription drugs, it may not be safe to drink alcohol at all. In addition to the above prescription medications, you should also avoid alcohol if you are taking:

  • Antibiotics
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Blood thinners
  • Diabetes medications
  • Erectile dysfunction medications

Drinking alcohol can increase the side effects of using the above prescription medications. It can also affect how well your medication works. You may feel more intoxicated or sick when mixing alcohol with these prescription drugs.

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Preventing Alcohol Interactions with Medications

The best way to prevent alcohol interactions is to learn more about your medication and how it interacts with alcohol. To protect yourself from the potential dangers of combining alcohol with prescription drugs, you should:

Ask your provider if your medication interacts with alcohol.

It is always recommended that you talk to your provider about your medication before you begin taking it. Ask them if you must limit alcohol or avoid it altogether when taking your prescription. 

Take your medication exactly as prescribed by your provider.

Another way to prevent alcohol interactions is by following your doctor's orders and taking the prescribed dosage on the designated schedule. Taking your medication more frequently or in larger doses than prescribed can intensify alcohol interactions. 

Seek treatment for alcohol use disorder if you cannot abstain from drinking while taking medications with alcohol interactions.

If you discover that your prescription drug interacts with alcohol and combining the two can cause you short- and long-term harm, it is essential that you avoid drinking. This may not necessarily be an easy thing to do, especially if you have become dependent on alcohol or developed alcohol use disorder (AUD). If this is the case, the best thing you can do to protect yourself from alcohol interactions with medication is to enroll in treatment for AUD. 

Get the Support You Need with Confidant Health’s Virtual Alcohol Rehab 

At Confidant Health, we realize that some people feel more comfortable getting help for alcohol dependence from the comfort and privacy of home. Our virtual alcohol rehab offers the support you need for your recovery goals without stepping foot into a provider's office. Get started with confidential, online alcohol rehab by downloading our app and scheduling an assessment.

This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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