Antibiotics and Drinking: Do Alcohol Mix with Drugs?

There are many people in the United States that enjoy drinking on antibiotics frequently. Some have a substance addiction and find it difficult to go very long without taking a drink. When people used to taking alcohol are prescribed antibiotics, many might wonder whether one can take antibiotics & drinking alcohol at the same time. This article will explore this issue in some detail.

Antibiotics and drinking - the dangers

Any time you combine two substances, there exists the possibility for what is known as “drug-drug interactions.” There are many reasons for this. A common one is that both substances are metabolized by the same pathway. If you use one of these pathways excessively, then the body will have a hard time breaking down each substance. They will accumulate in the body, potentially causing excessive side effects. In some cases, the drugs could actually indirectly or directly affect each other, compromising efficacy. For these reasons drug companies are required to perform comprehensive testing, when certain commonly used products are used concomitantly.

Taking antibiotics and drinking alcohol has this sort of drug-drug interactions. In a survey of 300 people in a London clinic, 81% of people believed taking the two together reduced an antibiotic’s efficacy while 71% believed the practice resulted in a higher side effect profile.

However, the fact of the matter is that this is not true with the vast majority of antibiotics. In fact, this perception of the drug-drug interaction is of great concern to medical professionals since the belief can cause non-compliance. Skipping just one day of antibiotics can significantly set back a treatment regimen, allowing bacteria a chance to begin to recover.

There are a few antibiotics where the caution is, in fact, warranted. Cephalosporin is one commonly prescribed antibiotic that should not be taken with alcohol. Its intake decreases the breakdown of alcohol in the blood, which increases the levels of acetaldehyde. The result is usually a series of nasty side effects, including nausea, headache, chest pain, breathlessness, and flushing. These are quite similar to the side effects caused by taking alcohol with disulfiram, which is often prescribed by doctors to discourage people from falling off the wagon when trying to stop drinking.

Another antibiotic which might result in a similar series of side effects when taken with alcohol is metronidazole. A warning not to take the drug with alcohol does come with the label. However, some doctors dispute this warning as too cautious. A series of reviews of available data failed to find any data supporting the claim. A small controlled study in Finland also failed to find any link between concomitant alcohol consumption and any side effects.

Other antibiotics that one should be careful with when drinking alcohol are tinidazole, linezolid, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, cefotetan, cycloserine, isoniazid, voriconazole, pyrazinamide, thalidomide, rifampin, didanosine and erythromycin. You should not have to worry too much about remembering the names of these medications because the interactions are well known to doctors. They will almost always warn a person not to take alcohol and antibiotics at the same time. Generally speaking, if you do not hear a specific warning, the medicine is not necessarily an excuse to interrupt your drinking on antibiotics habit.

If one does take one of the few antibiotics that do not mix with alcohol, you should exercise some additional caution. Remember that many over-the-counter products such as cold medications and mouthwash usually use alcohol in the formulation. Therefore, pay extra attention to the product labels of anything you ingest.

While it is probably a good idea to refrain from alcohol when sick to put less stress on your body, you will not necessarily have to give up drinking while on an antibiotic. In only a few cases do antibiotics and drinking have drug-drug interactions, and you will usually be given plenty notice by your physician when that is the case. For additional information about it, please check!

Please note: heavy drinking can lead to high blood pressure and other heart-related problems!


  1. I’m wanting to cut straight back on alcohol just interested, and I just want a beer.. And so I was thinking non-alcoholic alcohol could be good. But would need another view..

  2. I know that one can’t combine alcohol and antibiotics, but I’d want to know if it can be achieved in case the tablet was taken 6 hours before and the following one is likely to be taken in 8 hours? Thanks!

  3. I’m on antibiotics for a throat infection and I wished to have a few drinks to-night. Could it be bad to mix both in JUST ABOUT ANY quantities, is just a few drinks ok? Any solutions could be apreciated. Thanks!

  4. I’ve been approved metronidazole and told under no circumstances can I drink alcohol together. I’ve been drinking today but have ended so can I start using the antibiotics? I understand it suggests don’t mixture thus can it be okay? Or not since the alcohol is still in my own system?

  5. I’ve obtained bactrim before but have never experienced alcohol with it. I’ve never had a response or any unwanted effects whatsoever for the medicine. On additional antibiotics I’ve consumed while and had not a problem. I’m planning on drinking three or four drinks Friday evening. Do you believe this will be ok?

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