Cite this article

NIDA. (2012, November 27). Medications and Alcohol Don't Mix. Retrieved from

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Sara Bellum
November 27 2012
Danger label on the side of a pill bottle

If you’re taking any medications—either those prescribed by a doctor or over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine—it’s not a good idea to drink alcohol. Often, the medication label will warn you not to—because of the possible dangerous side effects. Read the label! You’ll find lots of good info, like:

  • The medication’s active ingredients, including ingredient amounts in each dose
  • The medication’s purpose and uses
  • Dosage instructions—when and how to take it
  • Specific warnings about interactions (with alcohol and other drugs)
  • Activities to avoid
  • The medication’s inactive ingredients (important to help people avoid an allergic reaction)

Because the drug label information can be confusing, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what side effects you might experience and not to mix medications and alcohol. Here’s what can happen:

  • Drinking alcohol while ibuprofen (Motrin) is in your system could cause stomach upset, stomach bleeding, and even liver damage.
  • If you’re taking a sleep medication like Ambien, alcohol could cause increased drowsiness, difficulty breathing, and memory problems.
  • Mixing caffeine and energy drinks with alcohol is also a bad idea since their opposite effects (alcohol is a depressant, caffeine a stimulant) can fool you into drinking more than your body can handle.

Check out this list of many common medications and what can happen if the user drinks alcohol while taking them. Some of them may surprise you.