Can I Drink Alcohol While Taking Pain Medication? - The Dangers of Drinking on Medication

May 29, 2023

Drinking on Medication

The short answer is you shouldn't. Drinking alcohol while taking pain medications can cause serious side effects. Read more about the dangers or drinking while on pain medication below.

Drinking alcohol while taking pain medication can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. The combination of alcohol and pain medication can increase the risk of adverse side effects and can even lead to overdose and death.

When alcohol and pain medication are consumed at the same time your liver becomes overwhelmed. When the liver is metabolizing both alcohol and medication it may have trouble breaking down the substances leading to a buildup of the medication in the bloodstream. This causes the pain medication to become more potent and increases the chance of side effects.

Some of the dangers/side effects of drinking on pain medication include:

  • Overdose: When the body overdoses, it means that it has been exposed to a toxic amount of a certain substance or substances. Depending on the medication and severity of the overdose, side effects can include respiratory depression (slowed breathing), cardiovascular changes (increased blood pressure), gastrointestinal problems (nausea and vomiting), seizures, loss of consciousness, and organ damage. 
  • Impaired judgment: Alcohol impairs judgment and makes it more difficult to recognize symptoms of medication side effects or overdose. Consuming pain medication and alcohol at the same time will speed up impairment because your body has to digest and detox from two substances rather than one. 
  • Liver damage: Both alcohol and pain medication can be damaging to the liver. Because your liver must work twice as hard to clean multiple substances out of your system, drinking alcohol while taking pain medication can increase the risk of liver damage and liver failure.
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding: Certain pain medication can irritate the lining of the stomach and increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, and adding alcohol to the mix alcohol can further increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Worsening of pain symptoms: Alcohol can dehydrate the body and make pain symptoms worse. When the effects of alcohol and pain medication wear off, pain can exacerbate and make it more difficult to manage pain. It also may lead to a higher dependence on medication .

Common Questions 

  • Can I drink alcohol while taking this pain medication?
      • Pain Medications vary in dosage and composition. It is important to listen to your doctor, and read directions that come with the medication to avoid any complications.
  • Are there any specific risks or side effects associated with mixing alcohol and this medication?
      • Mixing alcohol with certain pain medications can increase the risk of side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired coordination. It can also intensify the sedative effects of the medication.
  • How long should I wait after taking the medication before consuming alcohol?
      • The recommended waiting time can vary depending on the medication. It's best to follow your doctor's suggestions. 
  • Can alcohol increase the effectiveness or potential side effects of the pain medication?
      • Yes, because your body is trying to metabolize two substances at the same time, side effects of alcohol and pain medication will be increased. 
  • Does this pain medication interact with alcohol in any way that could be harmful?
      • Pain medication can increase the drowsiness and impairment that comes with alcohol consumption. This can impact your alertness and ability to operate a motor vehicle. 
  • Are there any specific precautions or guidelines I should follow regarding alcohol consumption while on this medication?
      • Always listen to your doctor and read the instructions that come with the medication.
  • What are the potential consequences or dangers of drinking alcohol excessively while taking this pain medication?
      • Excessive alcohol consumption while taking pain medication can lead to increased side effects, impaired judgment, heightened risk of car accidents, and potential liver or kidney damage.
  • Should I avoid alcohol completely while taking this medication, or is moderate consumption acceptable?
    • It is generally recommended to avoid alcohol completely while taking pain medication to prevent potential interactions, side effects, and health risks. However, consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice based on your specific medication and health condition.

It is important to always read the labels of medication and to speak with a healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking any medication with alcohol. Some medications have specific warnings against consuming alcohol, while others may require a specific time frame to pass before alcohol consumption is safe.

In addition, it is important to follow the prescribed dosage and to never exceed the recommended dose of medication, even if pain symptoms persist. If pain symptoms persist despite medication use, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider to discuss alternative treatment options.

At Garden State Pain and Orthopedics, our pain medicine providers focus on creating personalized treatment plans that best fit your needs. While understanding the importance of medication, we focus on providing alternative, minimally invasive treatments that minimize medication. For more information about our treatment click the “Book Now” button above or visit our services page.