Are you drinking alcohol and taking medications within the same day or within short spans of time? Well, if you are, you could very well be asking for health problems. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), approximately, 71% of adults in the U.S. (about 40% of seniors ages 65 and older) drink alcohol.
Many prescribed and over-the-counter medications, and herbal remedies can be dangerous and even deadly when mixed with booze. Moreover, those medications and herbal remedies that we take to treat depression, diabetes and high blood pressure can interact with alcohol and potentially cause harmful or adverse reactions. Medications that can cause adverse interactions with alcohol include:
- Acetaminophen – found in various brand and over-the-counter medications
- Allergy and cold medicine
- Cough syrup
- Depression or anxiety medicine
- Pain medication
The combination of alcohol and medication can also cause health problems for seniors including:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Coordination issues
More severe effects of the alcohol and medication combinations include:
- Internal bleeding
- Heart problems
- Breathing problems
Mixing alcohol and medications may cause the medicine to be less effective or to not work at all. And, even small amounts of alcohol can make it dangerous for you to operate machinery and/or to drive. So, when you mix alcohol with certain medications, you’re asking for trouble, putting yourself and others in jeopardy. For older people, there’s a very high risk of harmful interactions because aging slows down an older person’s ability to break down (digest) the alcohol. As a result, the alcohol hangs around in the body a lot longer.
The effects on women can be worse. Women at any age generally have a higher risk of alcohol-medication interactions. Alcohol remains in women’s bodies longer because their bodies generally have less water than men’s bodies. With that being the case, alcohol tends to be more concentrated in a woman’s body as opposed to a man’s. Therefore, women are more vulnerable to alcohol-related damage of vital body organs such as the liver.
When taken properly, medications are usually safe and effective. However, it usually isn’t safe to mix alcohol and medications. It’s important to discuss with your pharmacist or healthcare provider about which medications could have harmful, if not deadly interactions when mixed with alcohol.