What Happens If... You Drink On Antibiotics?

How true is it that you really should not mix the two?
Can you drink on antibiotics?
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Can you drink on antibiotics?

Obviously, a glass of wine or a quick pint is all the more tempting when you’re not supposed to be having it.

But if you’re on antibiotics, you’re not really meant to avoid giving in (even though it’s not completely forbidden) in case it impacts the effectiveness of the drug.

This does not apply to every form of antibiotic, though.

The NHS explains: “It’s unlikely that drinking alcohol in moderation will cause problems if you’re taking the most common antibiotics.”

Combining booze and these prescribed meds can have side effects. Antibiotics alone might make you feel sick or dizzy, two unpleasant sensations which can then be exacerbated by drinking alcohol.

The best thing to do is to ask your GP or pharmacist if you can drink while on your particular type of antibiotics.

You definitely should not drink while taking metronidazole, used for infections of all kinds including dental, vaginal, leg ulcers and pressure sores, and try to abstain from alcohol for at least 48 hours after finishing the course.

Tinidazole is also not meant to be mixed with a boozy beverage. It treats similar infections to metronidazole but also helps clear a certain type of bacteria from the gut. Dodge the booze for at least 72 hours after taking it.

The NHS explains that combining either of these drugs with alcohol can leave you with:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Hot flushes
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Feeling dizzy or drowsy
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The health service also recommends dodging drink when you’re taking linezolid (meant to treat infections like pneumonia and skin infections) as this can be impacted by fermented alcoholic drinks such as wine, beer, sherry and lager.

Similarly, doxycycline (meant to treat chest infections, dental infections, rosacea and prevent malaria) can impact the effectiveness of a medication and may be less effective in those with a heavy drinking history.

But these are just the exceptions, not the general rule.

The BBC points out that doctors do fear that patients will skip a dose of their antibiotics just so they can have a drink, which adds to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

It’s also worth remembering that drinking while you’re unwell is still not advised even if it doesn’t interact with your antibiotics, as it can slow down your recovery, make you tired and dehydrated – and that’s probably not the best state to get into when you’re fighting off illness anyway.