Alcohol and medicine interactions

Drinking alcohol can cause problems if you’re taking certain medicines. Some medicines become stronger or weaker, or their side-effects are worse.

A medicine label that says ‘Not to be taken with alcohol’ means you should not drink any alcohol the whole time you’re on that medicine.

If you’re taking any type of medicine, always check the label and ask your pharmacist or doctor if you can safely drink alcohol.

If you start a new medicine you may not be able to continue drinking alcohol as you did before. Watch carefully for any sign that your medicine is being affected by alcohol. You may get extra sleepy, forgetful, confused, unsteady, dizzy, nauseous, or be less interested in eating.

The medicine dose and amount of alcohol you drink when taking it may also change the effects you experience.

Try reducing the amount of alcohol you drink, even for just a little while, to see if it helps.

Common types of medicines that can be affected by alcohol

  • Antidepressants (for depression).
  • Tranquillisers (for anxiety).
  • Sedatives (for sleeping).
  • Mood stabilisers (eg, lithium for bipolar disorder).
  • Antihistamines (for allergies or colds).
  • Anti-inflammatories (for pain and inflammation).
  • Paracetamol (for pain or fever).
  • Stronger, opiate-based painkillers (eg, codeine).
  • Antibiotics (for infections).
  • Anti-hypertensives (for high blood pressure).
  • Heart medicines (for angina or heart failure).
  • Cholesterol-lowering medicines.
  • Indigestion medicines.
  • Diabetes medicines.
  • Blood thinners (for preventing blood clots).
  • Chemotherapy medicines (for cancer or severe arthritis).
  • Epilepsy medicines.
  • Medicines that help urine flow (for men with enlarged prostates).
  • Some medicinal herbs, such as chamomile, valerian, lavender, St John’s wort and kava.
  • Some cough syrups that contain high amounts of alcohol and can affect other medicines.

This is not a complete list – always check with a pharmacist or doctor.