24 thoughts on “Mixing Meds and Alcohol: Just How Dangerous Is It?

  • November 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    The worst part is that some people mix these medications with alcohol on purpose because they like the way it makes them feel. A pretty heavy price to pay for one night having a good time.

  • November 6, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    I am glad to see this being talked about. I take antidepressants. All the warnings simply said do not mix with alcohol. They also all say may cause suicidal behaviors. Needless to say, I and many others may take the list of warnings with a grain of salt… because some of them are just that. I looked online to see the dangers of drinking while on antidepressants. I could not find anything concrete or anything besides “it is dangerous.” Driving a car can be dangerous. I found out a the rough method the dangers of mixing the two.

    There really needs to be more research. What specific meds? Can a certain level of alcohol be consumed or none? What are the medical and psychiatric risks? How great are those risks?

  • November 7, 2012 at 10:54 am

    There’s no need to admit to taking drugs for your mental health when out partying. When refusing a drink, how about saying, “I’m trying to keep my weight down.” or “I’m trying to be healthier.” If someone is pushing you to drink when you refuse, they aren’t much of a friend.

  • November 7, 2012 at 11:09 am

    I love that the writer spoke about her own experience. Mine is similar except that the drug is Prozac and the drinking (some periods daily) has always to excess (ex 1.5 bottle wine, or 8+ beers). My take on the warning is that it is drug company covering their legal ass. Happily, I have not had any negative effects from my (admittedly extremely reckless) drinking. Point being that if my level of drinking didn’t cause a problem, I really think a glass or wine or a couple of beers won’t hurt.

    I have since (7 weeks now) quit alcohol after learning what I am doing to my brain. Need that.

    • January 10, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      I am with Sundee on this one. Doctors and phamaceutical companies don’t have real evidence to support this claim, but use it anyway to cover themselves from a law suit. I take Wellbutrin and Pristiq and enjoy my red wine as well. I do not feel any different or any more tired while drinking. Of course, I won’t drink and drive, but I won’t refrain from drinking responsibly.

  • November 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    The real danger comes in when mixing alcohol and opiates. Too many people have died from mixing their prescribed pain pills with a few drinks or glasses of wine. Sometimes they forget if they’ve taken a dose of pain pills so they take 2 more. My sister in-law, who thought she knew everything, died this way last year. It was clearly an accident.

    I had even gently suggested to her just a few months before her death that she might be addicted to pain killers. Of course she denied that. She was also in denial about her alcohol consumption. I had to oh, so carefully touch on these subjects or she was liable to become extremely angry and say really bad things about me to my brother.

    It’s a sad thing when I think about her, the enormous number of celebrities who’ve died this way, and all the countless others we don’t hear about.

    People just don’t get it!!!

  • November 7, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Is there a risk even if you don’t get slightly tipsy let alone drunk? I always thought it just made the effects of alcohol come on more quickly, and that due to the medication causing things such as CNS depression, being drunk was even more dangerous than it otherwise would be.
    I’ve only experienced an increased response to alcohol on one medication. Two sips of champagne made me feel like I had guzzled three glasses in quick succession (or at least what I imagine that would be like). Needless to stay, I stopped drinking immediately!
    My psychiatrist has always said to be really careful until you know how the medication and alcohol effects you and NEVER to mix alcohol and benzos. But then she knows that I would never get myself even remotely drunk.

  • November 7, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I am a very light drinker, and I hate that the “do not drink” labels are so vague and doctors do not discuss it. I have to go research the information myself. I take opiates for chronic severe noncancer pain, as well as antidepressants and other medications that are labeled “do not drink alcohol”, but going through the studies shows very little evidence of harm from interaction with small amounts of alcohol.

    It is more frightening because there are meds that can NOT be mixed with alcohol at all in any amount, how does one figure out the difference? The pharmacist isn’t going to tell us, they are just going to say “do not drink.” I want to know whether that means “no alcohol” or “very little alcohol.” I know many are incapable of making that distinction, but I have chronic gastritis and can’t drink much anyway 😉

    The alcohol/opiates interaction is, in my mind, something that can’t be reduced to a label. The interaction is going to be completely different for an opiate tolerant patient on a steady dose vs. someone who is either new to opiates, has recently started a higher dose, or is monkeying around with their doses without their doctor’s permission/abusing the medication. Those are the danger zones, where deaths are most likely to occur (also more likely with certain medications). A properly medicated patient should never be high outside of a hospital/surgical setting. I read a lot of message boards and see a lot of improperly medicated people, it’s impossible to tell whether they are that way by choice or not.

    • November 8, 2012 at 10:40 am

      Estarianne, you make a really interesting point about how the blanket warnings may actually be more dangerous – not to mention more confusing – than having specific ones. Some drugs are flat-out much more dangerous to mix with alcohol than others. However, the effects can be dose dependent, both with the amount of the drug and the amount of alcohol. Here, as you note, tolerance comes into play. Someone might drink frequently but lightly while taking a certain medication. But from most warnings, it’s difficult to tell if that means they’re probably in the clear because the real issue is that alcohol enhances, say, the sedative effects of the meds (as is the case with opiates for pain and benzodiazepines for anxiety), or whether it causes, say, liver damage by frequently combining the medication and alcohol, even in small amounts. I agree with you that doctors need to explain in much more detail what the specific risks are. They should specifically inquire about patients’ drinking habits.

    • November 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm

      That is a very good point!

    • December 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm

      If you are Physically dependant on opiates and taking an anti depressant why do you feel the need to drink at all. Alcohol and opiates potentiate each other. Having a higher tolerace to opiates does not mean it is safe to drink in small amounts.

  • November 8, 2012 at 11:01 am

    I take 450mgs of Wellbutrin. I have a glass of wine a day. I looked at the research that I could understand and while it said you should not drink, it also said that a person should not quit drinking because that could cause seizures…you should quit little by little.

    But really, one glass of wine a day? Are they only speaking to people who drink much more than that? I told my doctor about my alcohol use and he did not think it was a problem (maybe he is wrong, docs can be wrong). But it seems to me these blanket statements (mentioned above) are more for “safe than sorry” than nuances for individual use and protection from lawsuits. I want to see a study that shows a statistically significant correlation between low-moderate alcohol use and increased seizures.

    • November 8, 2012 at 11:15 am

      I’d like to see that study, too! A quick search turned up this study, but it’s in mice. As you probably know, taking higher doses of Wellbutrin (450 is a high dose) is associated with a higher risk of seizures than lower doses. But you’re right – one glass of wine a day? My understanding is that alcohol’s effect on the seizure threshold (how “easily” you get a seziure) also depends on the amount you drink. This Powerpoint presentation on the topic is interesting, too (warning – it’s a download)

      • November 8, 2012 at 11:31 am

        The PP was helpful, I wish I had the talk and Q and A that went with it to fill in the blanks! It says Welbutrin immediate release for lower seizure threshold. The discussions seems to focus on sudden withdrawal of most substances (psych, legal, illegal) as lowering the seizure threshold. Immediate release Welbutrin is very hard to manage because of how quickly it heads through your system, right? I take extended release, hopefully that mitigates factors. Now to find out whether or not I have a high risk for seizures…. I really need to talk to my doctor about this again and get him to look into it more carefully.

  • November 9, 2012 at 2:58 am

    Interesting – my meds (benzos) occasionally come with this label – I asked my doctor about it and he said 1-2 glasses of wine were likely okay – it depended on how I felt. So I do occasionally have a glass or two. I’m a very occasional drinker (less than once a month). This article got me worried – but I assume my psychiatrist would know?

    • November 9, 2012 at 10:51 am

      Trust your psychiatrist, Kaye. He knows how much of the benzo you’re taking and your tolerance to it and can better account for risks. Of course, if you want to do your own research from reliable sources, like peer-reviewed studies on Google Scholar, I would encourage that, too -as long as you discuss your findings with your doc and don’t change your habits without letting him know. Also just make sure to be honest with him if you do sometimes drink more:)

  • April 18, 2015 at 2:48 am

    Been mixing xanax, restoril and gin to ease pain. Like how it feels

  • July 31, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    I’m seriously late to the discussion so I don’t know if this will be seen, but I have taken 3 different meds for years and drink basically every day. I swallow my meds w alcohol, and I drink as much as I want and have never had a problem. I know it’s not optimal, and my psychiatrist and therapist neither one like the idea so they vaguely discourage it. Yet they cannot or have not given me any hard reasons and when I say that if I was foing to have issues I would have by now….I think they find it hard to refute. I’m not a light drinker, and I take an antiD and an atypical antiP, but after over 3 yrs of drinking w these, nothing has happened. That said….if someone else were to tell me this, or if I saw someone else down their psych meds w booze, I would likely cringe and I would never blow them off and encourage someone do what I’m doing. I think in every case, every one is different.

  • September 18, 2015 at 6:14 am

    i drank alot while on psych meds. The effects of drinking while taking meds was not pretty. I now have bad memory, forget what i’m talking about mid sentence and a second later i forget completely what i was saying. I also forget i called someone on the phone. It’s a horrible road since i’ve been sober. I have no plans to drink anymore if ever again. And i won’t drink ever again, you can take that to the bank. i seriously wish i’d known then what i know now. being schizo with bipolar and manic depression is a hard enough road and i gave up alcohol on my own. no one pushed me to quit i did experience dt’s because that was alot of alcohol i was drinking. Not an alcoholic in any way, i was able to kick it from day 1. even gave my shot glass away. If someone brings beer over to where i live i allow it. when they leave it in the fridge i don’t touch it. i hate what’s happened to me and i don’t want to see anyone else’s mind get bad. if you drink on psych meds it’ll happen to you too. i beg of everyone reading this comment to stop before it has permanent negative effects on your life. THanks for reading.

  • January 1, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    I woke up yesterday around 5am and I took my Zoloft and Vistaril around 6am I went shopping and got a bottle of orange vodka and it was around 4:30pm when i got home so I decide to celebrate new years a little early not thinking that I was still on my meds and what not.
    After 3 shots I started feeling really weird, so I lied down for a bit and my anxiety started to kick in real hard and then I eventually fell asleep I’m guessing my anxiety was still active even when I was asleep so my brain woke me up thinking: “hey there’s something wrong here!” I woke up flushed and it felt like I couldn’t breathe I was really scared so I ran into the living to tell my mom I need to go to the ER ASAP. After I explained everything to her she’s like “well your fine I don’t think your gonna die you just freaked out that’s all”, unsettled by the answer.
    I called the poison control center and they said the similar thing but she said “your fine there’s nothing wrong with you something serious wouldve happend by now.
    If it happens again tell yourself your gonna be fine”. I went back to sleep feeling a little better and it happened a couple more times last night and did my best to calm myself and I shook it off and ignored it and woke up felling much better…note to self if your gonna plan on drinking don’t take your meds…its a bad experience.

  • January 22, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    I have taken alcohol with bipolar medicine
    Now i am facing problems of strang behaviour less cordination drowsiness and many more
    What iare the remedies now?

  • January 22, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    I have taken bipolar drugs with alcohol
    What are the remedies?

  • March 10, 2017 at 10:17 am

    I approach it in a way that it will still be fair for me cause i cant imagine not drinking for the rest of my life its something i enjoy doing and need to do, what i do is dont take the meds the day before i drink and the day after i drink i dont take them, so me and my body are still winners.

    • March 11, 2017 at 4:25 pm

      Seems like a smart and logical way for you to handle the issue. Glad it works for you. If I, however, fail to take my meds for even one night, I’m sicker than a dog.


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