Dangers Of Alcohol – Medication Interactions

 by Aloy Adigweme, PhD; Rph


According to the most recent estimates, about 10% of adults in the US consume alcohol on a daily basis (National Institute Of Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, 2010). During the holiday seasons and major sports events, this number goes much higher.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The holiday season is upon us and the Superbowl will be here shortly thereafter. For those on medication, it is important to assess the risk factors for adverse events when alcohol is consumed concommitantly with certain therapeutic agents. Antibiotics, cardiovascular agents, narcotic and non narcotic analgesics and psychotherapeutic agents are among drug categories with documented adverse reactions with alcohol. In the antibiotic group, certain cephalosporins (e.g moxalactan), flagyl (metronidazole) when taken with alcohol produce the so called “disulfiram” effect i.e.  flushing, palpitations, tachycardia, nausea and vomiting.                   

Narcotic analgesics and psychotherapeutic agents exhibit interactions with alcohol that range from minor to potentially deadly. Acute alcohol ingestion with barbituarates (eg phenobarbital, pentobarbital) causes inhibition of metabolism of barbiturates in the liver thereby increasing barbiturate blood levels. Benzodiazepines (valium, xanax, librium, ativan) taken with acute alcohol ingestion show increased central nervous system effects. These may include impaired hand -eye coordination, effects on psychomotor assessments including driving skills. Most psychoactive agents exhibit a central nervous system depressant effect and show an additive or  synergistic effect with alcohol in the system.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Alcohol consumed on a chronic basis stimulates production of enzymes that may be involved in drug metabolism. This could render affected drugs  ineffective. This interaction type affects drugs in several different therapeutic classes.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Drug-alcohol interactions can affect several categories of drugs. Consequently, it is important that those on medications consult their healthcare providers regarding alcohol consumption and potential adverse drug interactions.


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