Ask A Pharmacist

The Truth About Alcohol And Antibiotics

Our Customers Asked:

I know I’m not supposed to drink while taking antibiotics, but tonight is my best friend’s wedding! Is it OK if I just have one drink?

Our Pharmacists Answered:

This is one of those questions we hear every single day in some way, shape, or form. Antibiotic courses tend to last five days or more, and that can get in the way of social plans if alcohol is on the menu. At C.O. Bigelow, we have a few key points we relay to our patients to ensure they can make an informed decision…

“I’m taking antibiotics. Is it OK if I just have one drink?”

First and foremost, there is a small group of regularly prescribed antibiotic drugs that should not be mixed with alcohol in any situation. Flagyl (metronidazole), Tindamax (tinidazole), and Bactrim or Septra (sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim) will all cause you to regret that first drink almost immediately… even just from a few sips. These medications block one of the major metabolic pathways that break down alcohol, which leads to symptoms like flushing, headaches, increased heart rate, and severe nausea and vomiting. Basically, you skip the “fun” and go straight to having an absolutely brutal hangover that you can’t get rid of! At C.O. Bigelow, we recommend our patients on these medications wait at least 72 hours after taking their last pill before indulging in any alcoholic beverage.

Aside from those few problem drugs, the rest of the regularly prescribed antibiotics are generally OK (although not recommended) to mix with alcohol. The truth is, alcohol doesn’t inhibit the ability of antibiotics to do their specific job and fight the infection in your body, but it does affect the body’s other mechanisms of recovery. Anyone who’s ever had an alcoholic drink knows the effects on your body: dehydration, poor/restless sleep, decreased nutrient absorption, low blood sugar, dizziness, and reduced overall energy. These are all factors that inhibit your body from recovering as fast as possible and make you feel less than 100%. So, while alcohol technically doesn’t interact with most antibiotics, it does hurt your ability to recover from sickness the best you can.

All things considered, one drink is most likely not going to cause you significant distress. We recommend staying away from alcohol while on any antibiotic, but if you just have to have a drink or two, it is totally fine by us, as long as you aren’t on one of the three drugs mentioned earlier. Just make sure you keep it to a minimum, or you might wake up regretting what you’ve done to your body!

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Ask A Pharmacist: The Truth About Alcohol and Antibiotics
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Ask A Pharmacist: The Truth About Alcohol and Antibiotics
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Can you drink alcohol while taking antibiotics? It depends. C.O. Bigelow pharmacists sort our fact from fiction on the topic of alcohol and antibiotics.
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C.O. Bigelow
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