Is it Safe to Combine Ibuprofen and Alcohol?

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

Ibuprofen is a common pain reliever and a type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It functions by preventing your body from producing some natural inflammatory substances. As a result, it reduces swelling, fever, or pain.

Ibuprofen is primarily used to relieve pain, including headaches, muscular pain, menstrual cramps, toothaches, and arthritis. Additionally, it helps lower fever and treats mild pain brought on by the common cold or flu. 

It is marketed under several brand names, including Midol, Advil, and Motrin. The medicine is readily available without a prescription or sold over the counter (OTC). However, certain prescriptions may include ibuprofen.

Even though ibuprofen does not require a prescription, it is still a potent drug. Ibuprofen carries the potential for adverse effects, particularly if you do not take them as directed. It should not be taken with any alcoholic drink, so you should be careful not to consume alcohol.

Is it Safe to Mix Ibuprofen and Alcohol?

Mixing medication and alcohol can be harmful to your health. Some medications are less effective when used with alcohol. Additionally, the side effects of certain drugs like ibuprofen can be made worse by too much alcohol. 

According to the National Health Service (NHS), ibuprofen is generally safe to take with a small amount of alcohol. However, if a person takes ibuprofen regularly and consumes more alcohol than the moderate amount (two drinks for men and one drink for women per day), they may develop mild to severe side effects. Long-term ibuprofen use and frequent, excessive alcohol consumption both increase the risk of harmful side effects.

If you are taking painkillers or NSAID medications, particularly ibuprofen, for a prolonged period because of existing health conditions, consult your healthcare provider before drinking. Based on your risk factors, your doctor will advise you if it is safe to drink.

The Risks of Consuming Ibuprofen and Drinking

The following are the health risks associated with taking ibuprofen and alcohol together:

    1. Kidney Problems

    Alcohol is one of the toxic compounds that the kidneys eliminate from the body. The more alcohol a person consumes, the greater the kidneys have to work. According to the National Kidney Foundation, consuming large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis increases the risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

    In addition, ibuprofen and other NSAIDs have an impact on kidney function because they prevent the kidneys from producing an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX). By reducing COX production, ibuprofen decreases inflammation and pain. However, this temporarily affects the kidneys’ ability to function as filters.

    Ibuprofen can be risky for persons who already have impaired kidney function. Meanwhile, the risk of kidney damage is minimal in healthy people who only occasionally use the medication.

    Before you mix ibuprofen and alcohol, you should see a doctor first, especially when you have a history of kidney issues.

      2. Liver Problems

      Ibuprofen is linked to the development of fatty liver disease. The drug directly affects mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell), which reduces the capacity of cells to control the metabolism of fats in the blood. Additionally, alcohol, a primary cause of fatty liver disease, raises the chance of developing cirrhosis in the long run.

      Ibuprofen may potentially damage liver cells directly or induce a backflow of bile into the liver, which can cause acute liver failure in severe cases.

        3. Stomach Ulcers and Bleeding

        Doctors advise patients to take ibuprofen with meals since it might irritate the stomach and digestive tract and cause an upset stomach. Ibuprofen raises a person’s risk of stomach ulcers and internal bleeding when taken frequently or in high doses. Likewise, alcohol can irritate the digestive tract and stomach because it interferes with acid production. 

        According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), ibuprofen can interact with alcohol when taken together, worsening the drug’s usual side effects. Stomach bleeding, stomach ulcers, stomach pain, chest pain, and a rapid heartbeat are just a few of these adverse effects.

        Peer-reviewed studies also show that consuming both alcohol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen, increases the risk of stomach ulcers and bleeding.

        The longer a person takes ibuprofen, the higher the risk of stomach ulcer bleeding. Compared to someone who only uses ibuprofen once a week, someone who takes it daily for several months has a larger probability of having this symptom.

        Ibuprofen’s medication information label states that there is an increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding if:

            • You are over 60 years old

            • You take the drug long-term

            • You take ibuprofen at a high dosage

            • You use steroid or blood thinner medications

            • You have underlying medical conditions and previously experienced issues with gastrointestinal bleeding

          4. Decreased Alertness

          Ibuprofen and alcohol both have a sedative effect when taken individually. Combining the two may exacerbate this drowsiness, which may result in slurred speech, falling asleep, or difficulty carrying out daily activities.

          As published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), driving after drinking is dangerous because alcohol has the tendency to cause impaired coordination and slowed reaction times.

          Moreover, negative interactions between ibuprofen and alcohol are more likely to occur in those who drink excessively or use ibuprofen often. Certain populations are particularly vulnerable, including:

              • People with chronic pain who tend to use high doses of ibuprofen.

              • Teenagers who frequently drink alcohol with their peers.

              • Older adults with cognitive impairment, such as dementia patients, who may have trouble understanding dosage instructions.

              • People who may have alcohol abuse, including those with substance use disorder or mental health issues.

              • People with a high risk for liver or kidney issues.

            How to Take Medication Safely

            Individuals should take ibuprofen for the shortest amount of time at the lowest dose that is manageable. Consulting a doctor can help you choose safe long-term pain management measures.

            Ibuprofen is found in certain combination drugs, such as cold medicines, headache medications, and prescription pain relievers. To prevent taking more ibuprofen than advised and avoid drug interactions, it is crucial to read the labels on any drugs before taking them.

            It is also recommended to drink alcohol in moderation to help avoid negative side effects. As previously stated, moderate drinking entails a daily limit of one drink for women and two for men.

            Most importantly, it is better to avoid combining ibuprofen with alcohol to prevent harmful interactions. To be safe, discuss your alcohol and ibuprofen intake with your doctor. Your healthcare practitioner can assist you in determining your actual risk so that you do not put yourself in danger.

            How Long After Taking Ibuprofen Can You Drink?

            Ibuprofen only provides pain relief for 4 to 6 hours. The drug’s half-life is 1.8 to 2 hours. Thus, it will take your body around 10 hours to metabolize it completely. You would need to abstain from drinking alcohol throughout that period and may only drink alcohol 10 hours after taking ibuprofen.

            Frequently Asked Questions

            Can you drink alcohol while taking ibuprofen?

            As stated by National Health Service (NHS), ibuprofen is generally safe to take with a small amount of alcohol. 

            However, it is advised never to combine the two, so you will not experience any adverse reaction. Heavy drinkers and frequent ibuprofen users are more likely to encounter these adverse effects.

            What are the potential risks or side effects of mixing ibuprofen and alcohol?

            The potential risks or side effects of mixing alcohol and ibuprofen include kidney damage, stomach ulcers, and bleeding, decreased alertness, and liver problems.

            People with liver or kidney disease, cognitive impairment, and mental health problems are more vulnerable to experiencing negative interactions between ibuprofen and alcohol.

            Restricting alcohol consumption when taking ibuprofen can lessen the chance of undesirable side effects.

            Can mixing ibuprofen and alcohol cause liver damage?

            Taking long-term ibuprofen is linked to the development of fatty liver disease. Likewise, excessive alcohol intake can also cause liver disease. 

            When ibuprofen and alcohol are combined, it further increases the likelihood of liver damage.

            How long should I wait after drinking alcohol before taking ibuprofen?

            It is advised to take ibuprofen at least 24 hours after drinking alcoholic beverages because alcohol stays in the system for about 25 hours. This will help avoid adverse effects such as stomach ulcers, stomach bleeding, and drowsiness.

            Can mixing ibuprofen and alcohol interfere with the effectiveness of either substance?

            Alcohol interferes with ibuprofen, making it less effective. Additionally, alcohol can intensify the adverse effects of ibuprofen.

            It is better to avoid mixing alcohol and ibuprofen. To be safe, discuss your alcohol and ibuprofen intake with medical professionals. Your healthcare provider can assist you in determining your actual risk and recommended dosage so that you don’t put yourself in danger.

            1. National Health Service. (2020, January 11). Can I drink alcohol if I’m taking painkillers? NHS.UK. https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/medicines/can-i-drink-alcohol-if-i-am-taking-painkillers/
            2. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention. (2022, April 19). Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm
            3. National Kidney Foundation. (2014, August 12). Drinking Alcohol Affects Your Kidneys. Kidney.org. https://www.kidney.org/news/kidneyCare/winter10/AlcoholAffects
            4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2014). Harmful Interactions. NIAAA.NIH.gov. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/harmful-interactions-mixing-alcohol-with-medicines
            5. Nagata, N., Niikura, R., & Sekine, N. (2015). Risk of peptic ulcer bleeding associated with Helicobacter pylori infection, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, low-dose aspirin, and antihypertensive drugs: a case-control study. National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25339607/

            Author

            Edited by: David Beasley

            David Beasley - Design for Recovery

            RADT
            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
            IMG-1545

            LMFT
            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.

            We Can Help

            Read More

            Addiction & Recovery

            Sober Living in Los Angeles - Design for Recovery

            About Us

            Design for Recovery empowers men struggling with addiction by providing 24/7 support, mentorship, and teaches them how to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

            Chat with us on Facebook
            relapse prevention

            Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction? We can help!

            Our advisors are waiting for your call: 424-327-4614

            Reach out to us today.

            Design For Recovery is committed to helping you or your loved one live a fulfilling life free from alcohol and drug addiction. Below you can find out what to expect when you contact us for help.

            Call us at (424) 327-4614 or fill out the form below and we will be in touch with you soon.

            Send us a message below and we will reach out to you.