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Alcohol and Medicines

Many medicines—prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal remedies—can be dangerous or even deadly when mixed with alcohol. Many older people take medications every day, making this a special worry.

Older hands holding a pill boxBefore taking any medicine, ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can safely drink alcohol. Here are some examples of problems caused by mixing alcohol with some medicines:

  • If you take aspirin and drink, your risk of stomach or intestinal bleeding is increased.
  • When combined with alcohol, cold and allergy medicines (the label will say "antihistamines") may make you feel very sleepy.
  • Alcohol used with large doses of acetaminophen, a common painkiller, may cause liver damage.
  • Some medicines, such as cough syrups and laxatives, have high alcohol content. If you drink at the same time, your alcohol level will go up.
  • Alcohol used with some sleeping pills, pain pills, or anxiety/anti-depression medicine can be deadly.

Learn more about alcohol’s interactions with prescription drugs.