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What Happens If You Drink Alcohol While Taking Antibiotics?

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

Antibiotics are medications used to treat a variety of bacterial infections and disorders. When used with alcohol, it can increase the risk of side effects, such as upset stomach and dizziness.

This article explores the effects and dangers of mixing alcohol and antibiotics.

What Are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are medicines for treating bacterial infections. They can kill the bacteria or prevent it from growing and reproducing.

Even thoughthey are ineffective against viruses, they can be used to treat bacterial illnesses such as urinary tract infections, skin infections, strep throat, and E. coli. However, some bacterial infections, such as ear and sinus infections, may not need antibiotics. 

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Antibiotics can be taken orally, topically, or intravenously. Different classes of antibiotics are based on their chemical structure. Penicillins, cephalosporins, and fluoroquinolones are examples of commonly prescribed antibiotics. 

Antibiotics should only be used when necessary since they can produce negative effects and lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria evolve and grow resistant to the impact of an antibiotic. It’s important to use antibiotics responsibly by following your doctor’s instructions. Even if you feel better, finish the medication. Some germs could survive if you stop taking them too soon and may cause reinfection.

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism or alcohol use disorder is a condition in which a person feels a strong need to drink alcohol despite its detrimental effects on their life.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines alcohol use disorder as an incapacity to avoid or control alcohol consumption despite harmful occupational, social, or health consequences.

Combining Antibiotics and Alcohol: Is It Safe?

Drinking alcohol should be avoided when taking antibiotics because of the potentially hazardous interactions that might occur, as well as the adverse effects that alcoholic beverages have on the immune system and vital organs.

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When the body metabolizes alcohol, it creates acetaldehyde, which can cause nausea. Antibiotics frequently have stomach side effects, and consuming alcohol while taking these medicines might make nausea and stomach pain worse. Alcohol and antibiotics can also impair cognitive function, coordination, and concentration.

Can I Take Antibiotics With Alcohol?

The answer is no — drinking interferes with antibiotic treatment and can have several adverse side effects. Even though occasional and moderate alcohol consumption does not affect the effectiveness of most antibiotics, it can lower your energy, weaken your immune function, and slow your recovery from sickness. Therefore, you should abstain from drinking until you have finished your antibiotics and feel better.

What Are The Effects of Drinking Alcohol While Taking Antibiotics?

Alcohol and antibiotics can both induce upset stomach, dizziness, and drowsiness. Mixing alcohol and antibiotics can increase the risk of these negative effects.

Common antibiotics, including sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim, and metronidazole, should not be used with alcohol since doing so might produce a more severe reaction. When these prescriptions are used with alcohol, adverse symptoms, such as flushing, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and rapid heartbeat, may occur.

Effects Of Alcohol On Healing From An Infection

Alcohol can have a detrimental effect on the immune system functions and the body’s essential processes that help recovery from bacterial illnesses. The person’s healing process is slowed by alcohol, increasing the chance of getting sick again.

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Antibiotics and Alcohol Interactions

Before taking antibiotics, it is important to read and find information about their harmful interactions on the antibiotic packaging.

If you have questions regarding alcohol and medication interactions or your specific prescription, visit your doctor. They may advise you to consume alcohol in moderation or to avoid alcohol completely. It depends on the type of antibiotics you’re taking, your overall health, and your age.

You must completely avoid alcohol while taking the following antibiotics:

Antibiotics and Alcohol Interactions Design for Recovery

Mixing Medicines

Some antibiotics are contraindicated with other antibiotics, medications, and supplements (such as cephalosporins versus warfarin). You will likely be prescribed different antibiotics or instructed to stop using certain drugs or supplements.

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Always read the patient information brochure included with your specific medication, and be sure to seek professional medical advice if you’re taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications.

The Contraceptive Pill

Few antibiotics, including rifampicin and rifabutin, might lessen the efficacy of the contraceptive pill by reducing plasma estrogen concentrations.

You may be required to use additional contraception, such as condoms, while taking these antibiotics. If you’re taking contraceptive pills, discuss your options with your doctor.

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The Dangers Of Mixing Alcohol And Antibiotics

Mixing antibiotics and alcohol is dangerous. Alcohol and antibiotics can both induce stomach discomfort, dizziness, and drowsiness. Mixing the two substances can aggravate these negative effects.

In addition, alcohol can have a detrimental effect on immune functions and the body’s ability to recover from bacterial infection. Alcoholic beverages should be avoided until your antibiotic treatment is finished and your body has had enough rest and nourishment. 


Why Can’t You Drink Alcohol While Taking Antibiotics?

  • Disulfiram-like Reaction

Metronidazole is an antibiotic that has been linked to disulfiram-like responses. If a person taking metronidazole develops new-onset stomach pain, nausea, headache, or tachycardia, a comprehensive examination of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs must be done to determine whether alcohol is present in any of them.

Therefore, regardless of the antibiotic indication, it is necessary to check all medications given to the patient to prevent drug interaction. Note that mouthwash and some cough syrups have alcohol content.

  • Central Nervous System (CNS) Side Effects

Several antibiotics have direct effects on the central nervous system. For instance, linezolid can exhibit CNS activity. If combined with alcohol, which is a CNS depressant, it can aggravate its side effects (altered mental status).

Another example is penicillin, which has its own side effects, such as decreased level of consciousness and hallucinations. If mixed with alcoholic drinks, the risk of having these side effects is higher.

  • Stomach Side Effects

A person’s stomach is home to billions of bacteria and other critical components that maintain the digestive system and aid the immune system in fighting against illness. Antibiotics attack these bacteria and can disrupt the bacterial balance in the stomach. In response, the person can experience gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea or diarrhea.

Alcohol is also linked with gastrointestinal side effects, such as acid reflux. Hence, combining antibiotics and alcohol can heighten the risk of an upset stomach.

  • Liver Damage

Antibiotics are a frequent cause of drug-induced liver injury. The majority of liver injuries brought on by antibiotics are mainly dose-independent. The three antibiotics most often linked to liver damage are erythromycin, flucloxacillin, and amoxicillin/clavulanic acid. When you combine alcohol with these drugs, it will likely worsen liver damage.

Liver damage symptoms to watch out for include: dark-colored urine, stomach upset, chronic fatigue, skin rash, unusual bleeding, nausea, and vomiting.

Does Alcohol Affect How Well an Antibiotic Will Work?

Even though moderate alcohol use does not affect the majority of antibiotics’ effectiveness, it can weaken your immune system and slow your recovery from sickness. Therefore, you should abstain from drinking until you have finished your antibiotics and feel better.

Will Your Insurance Cover Rehab?

Whether you take certain antibiotics or not, binge drinking and chronic alcohol use can cause serious health consequences. If you are battling alcohol use disorder, you may seek help by getting in touch with a rehab center to start your recovery journey.

You may check with your health insurance provider to see if your insurance plan covers rehabilitation. You can also inquire about the different treatment options at your rehab facility and whether they accept your insurance. Treatment centers will walk you through the inquiry and enrolling process.

Questions About Treatment?

If you have questions regarding treatment, including treatment options, financing options, and enrollment procedures, you may get in touch with us now.

Recommended to Read:

[1] Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Xanax

[2] How Dangerous Is It to Consume Alcohol & Methamphetamine?

[3] Mixing Synthetic Marijuana and Alcohol

[4] Mixing Heroin with Alcohol  — A Dangerous Combination

[5] Ambien and Alcohol: A Deadly Combination

[6] Is it Safe to Combine Ibuprofen and Alcohol?

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, October 6). Antibiotic Use Questions and Answers.
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Health Topics: Alcohol Use Disorder. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from
  3. National Health Service. (2022, November 11). Antibiotics Interactions.
  4. Zhanel, G. G., Siemens, S., & Slayter, K. (1999). Antibiotic and oral contraceptive drug interactions: Is there a need for concern?. The Canadian journal of infectious diseases = Journal canadien des maladies infectieuses, 10(6), 429–433.
  5. Alonzo, M. M., Lewis, T. V., & Miller, J. L. (2019). Disulfiram-like Reaction With Metronidazole: An Unsuspected Culprit. The journal of pediatric pharmacology and therapeutics: JPPT: the official journal of PPAG, 24(5), 445–449.
  6. Champagne-Jorgensen, K., Kunze, W.A., & Forsythe, P. (n.d.). Antibiotics and the nervous system: More than just the microbes?, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Volume 77, 2019, Pages 7-15, ISSN 0889-1591.


Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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