Not drinking on antibiotics is one of those common-sense health rules that is a fact just because, like waiting 30 minutes after eating for swimming, or peeing on a jellyfish sting to make it better.
It is also a great excuse to use if you do not feel like going out for a night; Most people will accept it as legitimate.
But it’s true? After all, people certainly do, and although there are some anecdotal stories about feeling the alcohol hit harder, it’s not like people go to the hospital en masse after mixing the two.
The council goes back to the fifties
When the antibiotics were invented, they were literally super-drugs. Previously devastating illnesses, from common hospital infections to syphilis, could be cured in a matter of days or weeks. Needless to say, this changed drastically the prescription drugs and how patients interacted with them.
Speaking of syphilis, he and other sexually transmitted diseases caused by bacteria could eventually be cured quickly by antibiotics! Hooray! Everyone go out and celebrate for having more sex!
Well, not so fast – when the relatively new antibiotic penicillin was given to treat people with furious sexually transmitted diseases in the 1950s and 1960s, patients were told to refrain from drinking to keep it in their Pants and did not spread infection before rinsing. There was no chemical interaction that made the drugs ineffective, or the alcohol was extremely effective.
So, is it all about sex?
More or less! Basically, if a guy came out to hit back some in honor of his seemingly healed applause, he could still be contagious and more likely to make some poor decisions. This boring attitude towards the consumption of antibiotics began to apply to all cases of its use, and is still maintained until half a century later.
But surely there must be some medical complications associated with the mixture of antibiotics and alcoholic drinks, otherwise the myth would not remain for so long, right? Or is it one of those “just to be safe” recommendations?
Alcohol Does Not Make Antibiotics Less Effective
Many people think that drinking with antibiotics will make them useless in fighting any bacteria they are trying to fight; 81% of patients surveyed at a London clinic thought this was the case. It turns out that antibiotics will continue to do their thing, even if alcohol is introduced into the body, it could only exacerbate the sick symptoms you may have.
“While antibiotics can not interfere with the absorption or action of most antibiotics, you’re crazy to do this,” says Dr. John Swartzberg, chairman of Berkeley Wellness Editorial Board. “If you’re sick enough to be taking antibiotics, you’re too sick to drink alcohol.”
Dr. Swartzberg says that alcohol affects your immune response, which you need in the smooth operation of fighting infection. Drinking also interferes with your ability to have a good night’s sleep, your energy levels and your ability to stay hydrated; All the important factors necessary for your body to improve. “Antibiotics help us deal with infections, our immune system heals us,” he says. So even if the antibiotics themselves continue to work, your body may not be able to fight off a 100% infection.
Alcohol can cause more severe side effects
Although the efficacy of the antibiotics should still be intact, some side effects could be magnified when mixed with alcohol. Like most other drug intolerances, the side effects of antibiotics may include nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, and diarrhea. And as anyone who has enjoyed some adult beverages in a row knows, side effects are also associated with alcohol consumption, so combining the two can make it all worse.
If you experience a rash or itch, those are allergic reactions that your body is having to antibiotics not related to an alcohol interaction. Although the symptoms usually clear up on your own, you may want to see a doctor just in case. More severe allergic reactions include shortness of breath and shock, requiring emergency care.
Certain antibiotics require total abstinence from alcohol
You will have to call it quit in drink for a while if you are prescribed any of these: metronidazole (Flagyl), tinidazole (Tindamax), and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra). Metronidazole and tinidazole are almost guaranteed to have a poor reaction to alcohol, including nausea, vomiting, and rapid heart rate. The evidence for mixing trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and alcohol is not so definite, Dr. Swartzberg says, but it’s probably best to avoid combining the two just in case.
In general: it is not advisable, but it can be done (within reason)
If you are taking an antibiotic regularly, such as for acne or rosacea, then Dr. Swartzberg says (moderately) drinking in it is fine as long as it is not one of the problematic mentioned above, just be sure to discuss with your doctor first. When someone has an infection, however, it is best to stay sober until your dose is ready – usually only for a few days anyway – to speed up the recovery process.
One of the main problems is people who are overly concerned about possible drug interactions, so they will skip a dose (or several) of antibiotics in favor of drinking a beer. Taking antibiotics improperly as this can lead to resistance to antibiotics, which is becoming a rather alarming problem. But if you really can not say no to happy hour, then a drink or two should not make you incredibly ill or give you gnarly side effects (if you experience signs of a drug allergy, such as a rash or vomit, then call your doctor).
The biggest problem now might be finding another excuse to tell your friends why you are not drinking.