Can I drink on antibiotics?

It’s a question that I get asked frequently, and I do tell people not to drink while they are taking antibiotics…I actually got into quite a heated discussion not too long ago about it, so I figured that most of the public is either getting mixed information, doesn’t even think twice about it, or for some reason are too worried to ask their HCP.  I figured we could get that all cleared up and get everyone on the mend!

How do antibiotics work?
Basically, antibiotics are selective poison for a bacteria that is replicating/growing in your body.  And each antibiotic has a different way of working, so one antibiotic might be absorbed into your body and into the bloodstream, get to the source of infection, and cut off the glucose supply to the bacteria, essentially starving the bacterial cells to kill them off.  And others work to invade the bacterial cells and destroy them from the inside.  So, the reason that there are so many different antibiotics on the market is because they are each made to kill off a specific type of bacteria and the way that they act is also very specific.  Your antibiotic chosen by your HCP is done very specifically to the type of bacteria present and the site of infection.  One thing that all antibiotics have in common is that they are excreted from either your liver or kidneys.

Can I drink on them?
The old adage is that alcohol counteracts antibiotics: alcohol doesn’t counteract the effects of the antibiotics. There are there antibiotics, specifically, that you really should not mix with alcohol: metronidazole (Flagyl), tinidazole (Tindamax), and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim).  Mixing alcohol with these three antibiotics can lead to a very severe reaction with a rapid heart rate, drop in blood pressure, and it can be very dangerous.  In general, alcohol can enhance the side effects of the antibiotics like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, flushing (like getting a red face), or dizziness, and drowsiness.  Essentially, if you are on antibiotics and you drink alcohol, you get very drunk, much faster than you normally would. Also, you need to think about the fact that alcohol is excreted through your liver and kidneys….exactly where the antibiotics are broken down and excreted.  So drinking alcohol and taking antibiotics (or any other drug really) can put a lot of strain on your liver and kidneys. But here’s the deal: you are on antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection somewhere in your body, and you are usually low on energy and not feeling well because your immune system pulls all its energy together to fight off the bacteria and the antibiotics just assist your body, so why mess with that and drink?  Why do you want to put alcohol in your system that will make you feel crappier the next day, when you already don’t feel well?

Bottom line? Don’t drink while taking antibiotics.  If you feel good enough to go out and drink, you most likely do not need antibiotics AND if you literally cannot stop drinking to take a week off of drinking, you need to get help, and tell your HCP when they are giving you the prescription.

Yours in Good Health
B


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