Wellness·2 min read

Here's Why You Really Shouldn't Drink on Antibiotics

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Design: theSkimm | Photo: Pexels
Jun 21, 2022

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute a medical opinion, medical advice, or diagnosis or treatment of any particular condition.

It's true: Running through a course of antibiotics prescribed by your doc can put extra stress on your body. And it might sound like a nice idea to relax with a glass of wine after a long day of fighting off infection. But drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics is a no-go. We spoke to public health pharmacist Dr. Megan Freeland, PharmD to learn more about why. 

Remind me: What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are medications that treat bacterial infections. Different antibiotics treat different infections — and can be stronger than others. “...But there’s one thing they all have in common: antibiotics only treat infections caused by bacteria. They don’t treat infections caused by viruses, fungi, or any other type of germ,” said Dr. Freeland. 

But they’re not your secret weapon for every type of illness or infection. “Antibiotics work in two ways. They either kill bacteria or they stop bacteria from growing…” said Dr. Freeland. 

Common types of antibiotics include: 

Can I drink alcohol while taking antibiotics? 

Short answer: No. “For the most part, alcohol doesn’t make antibiotics any less effective than they should be,” said Dr. Freeland. “But mixing alcohol with antibiotics can cause unnecessary side effects.”

There are some antibiotics in particular that you should never mix alcohol with because of the risk of side effects. “For example, mixing alcohol with metronidazole, ketoconazole, or tinidazole can lead to nausea, vomiting, flushing, and an increased heart rate,” said Dr. Freeland. “This effect can also last up to three days after you’ve stopped the medication, so you should avoid drinking alcohol during this time period as well.”

And that’s not all. “Linezolid is an antibiotic that can lead to dangerously high blood pressure if taken with alcohol – particularly red wines and beers,” said Dr. Freeland. “You may also have an increased risk of liver damage if you mix alcohol with antibiotics like griseofulvin, ketoconazole, and isoniazid.”

Is it okay to drink alcohol if I'm sick but not on antibiotics?

It’s not recommended. “In general, alcohol can slow your body’s recovery process, making it take longer for you to feel better,” said Dr. Freeland. So staying away from alcohol when you’re sick is a good idea, regardless of what illness you’re facing. 

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As tempting as curling up with a hot toddy may be when you’re under the weather, it’s best to stay away from booze when you’re sick. Especially when you’re on antibiotics. Steering clear can help you avoid severe side effects and get better faster.

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