Why you can’t drink alcohol when taking antibiotics? Or can you?

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Who does not know that when you take antibiotics is forbidden to drink alcohol, because alcohol… what? Family doctors, pharmacists or relatives all know and tell us  that antibiotics and alcohol can’t be used simultaneously. But how did they know this? It has a scientific basis of such a statement or is just a myth? Let’s see…

No one knows how this idea appeared in the world. Dr Karl Kruszelnicki thinks that it originated somewhere in the middle of last century, when penicillin came into use as the first effective treatment of sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea or syphilis.

It seems that doctors were concerned that the new wonder drug effects could be reversed by the alcohol. So patients were asked to abstain from alcohol use during treatment.

A recent study suggests that this fear may have solid foundations. The patients in a british clinic receiving treatment for sexually transmitted infections were engaged more easily in risky sexual activities when they were drunk.

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Advice abstention from alcohol when taking antibiotics is good when it is a small group of anti-infection drugs including metronidazole (Flagyl, Metronide or Metrogyl) tinidazole (Fasigyn sau Simplotan) and sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim (Bactrim, Co -trimoxazole).

These medicines block one of the main channels involved in alcohol metabolisation and lead to rapid accumulation of acetaldehydes, which are responsible for many of the symptoms of a hangover. Taking these medicines and ingesting alcohol ( not more than a glass of beer) you’ll have a red face, vomiting and fainting.

But these anti-infection medicines have specialized uses to treat giardia infection or intestinal worms, for example, and would be unusual for the doctor not to talk to the patient  about possible side effects.

For all other classes of antibiotics there is no evidence that their use with alcohol may have adverse affects. An article that deals with the problem of alcohol interference with medications can be accessed here.

Of course, the fact that alcohol does not interfere with antibiotics does not mean it’s a good idea to drink alcohol to excess when you have an infection, because the effects of alcohol can worsen the disease.

Alcohol causes the dilation of blood vessels, and this can interfere with the body’s efforts to raise the body temperature to slow the spread of infection.

Your kidneys will be forced by alcohol to remove more fluid, which can lead to dehydration. In addition, muscle pain caused by the viral infection can be increased by the ingestion of alcohol.

Some antibiotics (isoniazid and flucloxacillin) can inflame the liver (causing mild hepatitis) in some cases. A night rich in alcohol can further inflame the liver, which strives to eliminate alcohol anyway.

So if you do not feel well, but you want to party, advisable is to reduce the alcohol consumption, either take or not take antibiotics. You will recover faster and reduce the risk of complications to occur.

But if you take antibiotics that do not fit at all with alcohol, then respect the advice not to drink, otherwise you will regret even a small amount of alcohol used.

However, for most people who use antibiotics, a glass of beer should not harm them in any way.

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