University of Rochester

University Health Service (UHS)
Health Promotion Office

Alcohol-Drug Interactions

The interaction between many medications and alcohol can lead to a significant increase in one's risk of illness, injury, or even death. When certain medications and alcohol compete in the body for absorption, the potency of the medication and/or alcohol is often increased. There is no set formula for what will happen when an individual consumes both alcohol and a medication. Each person is different, and the results of this type of potentially fatal cocktail vary based on the type and quantity of medication and alcohol ingested, the time frame involved, the individual's tolerance to both the medication and to alcohol, as well as a series of unpredictable, unique factors. To be safe, never mix alcohol with any type of medication, whether prescription or over-the-counter, before first checking with a licensed health care professional.

Reference Chart

Use the following chart to get a better understanding of the potentially fatal effects of mixing alcohol and medications. DO NOT use this chart as the sole basis for determining whether or not it is safe to consume alcohol while taking a certain medication. Be sure to check with a health care provider before mixing alcohol and a certain medication, and when in doubt, stay sober!

Alcohol-Drug Interactions
Drug Prescribed Purpose Interaction
(ex: Diprivan, Ethrane, Fluothane)
Administered prior to surgery to render a patient unconscious and insensitive to pain - increased amount of drug required to induce loss of consciousness
- increased risk of liver damage
Antibiotics Used to treat infectious diseases - reduced drug effectiveness
- nausea/vomiting
- headache
- convulsions
(ex: Elavil)
Used to treat depression and other forms of mental illness - increased sedative effects
- may decrease effectiveness of anti-depressant
- potential for dangerous rise in blood pressure
Antidiabetic medications Used to help lower blood sugar levels in diabetic individuals - reduced drug effectiveness
- nausea
- headache
(ex: Benadryl)
Used to treat allergic symptoms and insomnia - intensified sedation
- excessive dizziness
Antipsychotic medications
(ex: Thorazine)
Used to diminish psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations - intensified sedation
- impaired coordination
- potentially fatal breathing difficulties
Antiseizure medications
(ex: Dilantin)
Used to treat epilepsy - decreased protection against seizures
- increased risk of drug-related side effects
Antiulcer medications
(ex: Tagamet, Zantac)
Used to treat ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems - increased presence of drug ⇒ increased risk of side affects
Cardiovascular medications
(ex: nitroglycerin, Apresoline, Ismelin, Inderal)
Wide variety of medications used to treat ailments of the heart and circulatory system - extreme dizziness or fainting
- reduced drug effectiveness
Narcotic pain relievers
(morphine, codeine, Darvon, Demerol)
Used to alleviate moderate to severe pain - intensified sedation
- increased possibility of a fatal overdose
Nonnarcotic pain relievers
(aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen
Used to alleviate mild to moderate pain - increased risk of stomach bleeding
- increased risk of the inhibition of blood clotting
- increased effects of consumed alcohol
*acetaminophen (Tylenol) taken during or after drinking may significantly increase one's risk of liver damage
Sedatives and hypnotics
(Valium, Dalmane, Ativan, sleeping pills)
Used to alleviate anxiety and insomnia - severe drowsiness
- depressed cardiac and respiratory functions
- increased risk of coma or fatality
*Adapted from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
"Alcohol Alert" January 1995 No. 27 PH 355 publication


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Facts on Tap

To make an appointment with a UHS health care provider please call 585-275-2662.

For more information, contact Linda Dudman in the UHS Health Promotion Office at (585) 273-5770 or

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Last modified: Thursday, 26-May-2011 16:38:10 EDT