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Does Alcohol Affect Antibiotics?

Does Alcohol Affect Antibiotics?

There are a lot of misconceptions regarding the effects of alcohol on antibiotics. Let us explore the connection between alcohol and antibiotics.
Ashwini Kulkarni Sule
Antibiotics are able to cure almost all common ailments. However, there are certain substances that can either aggravate or suppress the effects of antibiotics on the human body. One such substance that is apparently not to be mixed with antibiotics is alcohol. Let us find out the correlation between alcohol and antibiotics, in the following article.
Does Alcohol Affect Antibiotics?
Alcohol is unlikely to decrease the effect of antibiotics. However, it may prolong the recovery period when combined with certain antibiotics like doxycycline. Antibiotics have their own mechanisms of functioning in the body as well as leaving the body. These mechanisms differ according to the type of antibiotics used. Some antibiotics are broken down by the liver and then passed through urine, while some others are directly excreted through feces. These mechanisms determine the duration for which the antibiotic remains active in the body and also the dosage for their intake. The only way alcohol can interfere with the mechanisms is by increasing the excretion rate and decreasing the rate at which they are broken down by the liver. This, obviously results in delaying the effect of antibiotics or increases the need for higher doses. However, this is only the case with some antibiotics and not all. Hence, it is not true that alcohol decreases the effect of antibiotics in general.
Side Effects of Combining Alcohol and Antibiotics
The effect of alcohol on antibiotics can vary depending upon the specific antibiotic. Some antibiotics and alcohol produce similar side effects, which include stomach upset, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea etc. When certain antibiotics like metronidazole (Flagyl), tinidazole (Tindamax) and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim) are mixed with alcohol it may lead to severe side effects like headache, flushing, rapid heart rate, vomiting etc. Another thing to remember here is that alcohol need not always come from beverages. Certain cold medications as well as mouthwashes also contain some amount of alcohol. Hence, one must be vigilant while combining antibiotics and alcohol in any form.
Reasons for Avoiding Alcohol with Antibiotics
Given below are a few reasons why one must avoid mixing alcohol and antibiotics.

» Alcohol competes with the antibiotics for the same set of metabolic enzymes. Due to this, the antibiotic has to stay in the bloodstream for a longer time, thus chances of the patient experiencing the side effects of antibiotic also increases.

» On the other hand, long term consumption of alcohol also stimulates the production of metabolic enzymes, which in turn, reduces the quantity of antibiotic in the body and hence, increases the need for more dosage. Once these enzymes are activated, they remain in the bloodstream even after traces of alcohol are removed from the body.

» Long term consumption of alcohol activates some enzymes which when combined with antibiotic form harmful substances. This is the reason why people who have recently come out of alcohol rehab take longer time to recover than non-drinkers.

» Alcohol also amplifies the sedative effects of some antibiotics.

» Alcohol can affect antibiotics in the above mentioned ways. However, certain antibiotics do not show any complications when combined with alcohol. On the other hand, antibiotics like metronidazole, tinidazole, furazolidone (Furoxone), griseofulvin (Grisactin), antimalarial quinacrine (Atabrine) are to be strictly avoided in combination with alcohol.
Though, the direct relation between alcohol and antibiotics is still debatable, one cannot ignore the fact that this combination does have the potential to induce deadly effects. To sum it up, one can say that alcohol may not decrease the efficacy of antibiotics, but it certainly does aggravate the side effects caused by antibiotics. Hence, it is better to completely avoid alcohol while you are on an antibiotic medication.