Antibiotics and Alcohol

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One of medicine’s most significant achievements was the discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928. Since then, antibiotics have changed how we treat bacterial infections and saved millions of lives. According to the CDC, 270 million antibiotics were prescribed in the U.S. in 2016. This does not include antibiotics prescribed within the hospital system. Although doctors are working to reduce the use of antibiotics due to the crisis of antibiotic resistance, it is important to understand the risks and side effects associated with antibiotics.

In this article, we will learn more about antibiotics, what happens if alcohol and antibiotics are combined, and what you can do if you need antibiotics and are struggling to limit your alcohol consumption.

Please contact us if you are concerned about your health and experiencing adverse side effects from mixing alcohol and substances such as antibiotics. At Guardian Recovery, we believe that an effective and multi-phased program of clinical addiction treatment should be readily available to everyone in need. For this reason, our team of dedicated professionals has developed an admissions process that is simple and easy to navigate. When you call, you will speak with a Treatment Advisor willing and ready to help guide you through our admissions process. A free pre-assessment can be completed over the phone, and a customized treatment plan can be created just for you.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

What Are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are a group of medications that fight bacterial infections by stopping the growth of bacteria or slowing down their progression. Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. They do not work on viruses such as colds, flu, or Covid-19.  

Examples of Common Bacterial Infections Treated by Antibiotics: 

  • Strep Throat.
  • Whooping Cough.
  • UTIs.
  • Sepsis-a life-threatening condition. 

Because antibiotics have been overprescribed since the 1930s, doctors are now trying to reduce the number of prescriptions of antibiotics each year. One outcome of the reduction in antibiotic use has been to avoid prescribing antibiotics for conditions such as sinus infections and ear infections. The reason for reducing prescription use is that these conditions heal independently and are not worth the side effects. 

Side Effects of Antibiotics: 

  • Rash.
  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Yeast infections.
  • C.diff infection.
  • Allergic reactions.
  • Antibiotic-resistant infections.

As early as 1945, Sir Alexander Fleming raised concerns over the misuse of antibiotics. He predicted that the public would demand the drug and that an era of abuses would occur. Antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains are widespread in the U.S. and across the globe. According to the CDC and WHO, we are in a dire state regarding the antibiotic resistance crisis. “MRSA kills more Americans yearly than HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, emphysema, and homicide combined.” 

Does Alcohol Affect Antibiotics?

One common misconception among people is that alcohol impacts the effectiveness of antibiotics. However, this belief is not necessarily true. Doctors in the 1950s created this myth to deter individuals from engaging in sexual activity as a method to stop STIs from spreading. (At that time, it was not well known how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases). It was well known that alcohol increased sexual activity, so to give the antibiotics a chance and avoid spreading further sexually transmitted infections, doctors warned patients not to mix antibiotics with alcohol. 

How Does Alcohol Affect Antibiotics?

Alcohol worsens side effects associated with antibiotics, puts more strain on the liver, and can impact one’s immune system making it more challenging to heal from an infection. 

Common Side Effects of Mixing Antibiotics & Alcohol: 

  • Facial flushing.
  • Nausea and vomiting. 
  • Headache.
  • Chest pain.
  • Dizziness.
  • Thirst.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Weakness.
  • Mental fog.

Certain antibiotics should never be mixed with alcohol as the side effects can be dangerous if combined. These side effects include rapid heartbeat, liver damage, high blood pressure, and severe headache. 

Never Combine These Antibiotics with Alcohol: 

  • Cefoperazone.
  • Cefotetan.
  • Metronidazole.
  • Tinidazole.
  • Ketoconazole.
  • Isoniazid.
  • Linezolid.
  • Griseofulvin.

Bactrim

Bactrim, also known as Sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim, is a common antibiotic used to stop the growth of bacterial infections. The dangerous combination of alcohol and Bactrim includes significant side effects that may increase and slow treatment effects. Additionally, it can take up to 3 full days after completing the antibiotic regimen until alcohol can be used safely.  

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Alcohol & Bactrim Side Effects:

  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Warmth or redness under the skin.
  • Nausea. 
  • Vomiting. 
  • Tingling sensation.
  • Low blood pressure when standing.

Liver Damage 

In addition to intensifying the side effects of antibiotics, alcohol also puts an additional strain on the liver when combining antibiotics and alcohol. Why? The liver regulates most chemical levels in the blood and excretes the waste called bile. All the blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver. The liver processes this blood, breaks down substances, balances and creates the nutrients, and metabolizes drugs into forms that are easier to use for the rest of the body. When the liver has to process drugs such as alcohol or antibiotics, it can put more strain on the liver to remove the toxins. So as you can imagine, combining two harmful substances increases the amount of stress on the liver when processing additional chemicals. Certain antibiotics have more profound effects on your liver than other antibiotics, so it is essential to always speak with your doctor about what medications you are taking and if you are consuming alcohol. 

Immune System

Finally, alcohol is known to impair the immune system, making it harder for the body to heal from an infection. Research indicates that alcohol significantly weakens the immune system, predisposing people with alcohol-use disorders to various health disorders, including infections and systemic inflammation. Additionally, not only does alcohol increase inflammation, but it also impacts sleep, impacts the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, and increases blood sugar. These factors can negatively impact the body’s ability to heal from an infection. 

What If I Need To Take Antibiotics?

There are times when antibiotics are necessary. If you have a skin infection, UTI, or sepsis, taking the required medication to heal and prevent the condition from spreading is essential. Knowing that alcohol can increase the side effects of antibiotics, including some lethal consequences, it is not worth risking the combination of alcohol and antibiotics. It is recommended that people abstain from alcohol entirely if they need to be on an antibiotic regimen. 

Finally, when dealing with an infection, it is best to ensure proper rest, stay hydrated, and get adequate nutrients to help your body heal. Alcohol disrupts these processes and can slow down the healing properties needed to recover fully. 

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Have you ever imagined what life may be like when alcohol isn’t impacting your health? You don’t have to suffer in silence. At Guardian Recovery, our mission is to provide comprehensive treatment for anyone in need. Not only will we take the time to assess what treatment is most beneficial for you, but we will also provide compassionate, well-informed care to help guide you in your journey toward wellness. Our caring clinical professionals have decades of combined experience providing effective substance use disorder treatment. We also can provide a no-obligation insurance benefit check at your convenience. We are ready to help you heal, so please get in touch with us today. 

SELF-ASSESSMENT:

Do I have an Addiction issue?

Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/pdfs/Annual-Report-2016-H.pdf
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378521/
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/q-a.html
  4. https://journals.asm.org/doi/10.1128/aac.02167-19#sec-52
  5. https://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2005/06/02/1380836.htm
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590612/#

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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