Prescription medications and alcohol – know the risks

Combining some drugs and alcohol can have unpredictable and sometimes dangerous consequences. Credit danilo.alvesd

There are risks involved in taking any drug, whether it’s an illegal one such as ICE or heroin. or a prescription medication such as a sleeping tablet or pain medication. But did you know these risks can increase if you drink alcohol with some drugs?

Know the risk of mixing drugs and alcohol

How can drinking alcohol with some prescription medication cause an issue?

According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF), it’s mostly because the liver breaks down these medications and drinking alcohol can interfere with this process. In some cases, mixing alcohol with medications can increase the side effects. In other cases, it can reduce the efficacy of the medication. And in others, it can have a toxic effect and even lead to serious illness or death.

Here are some common prescription medications and the increased risks that alcohol can pose:

  • Benzodiazepines are taken by people to treat anxiety and seizures, and also help people having trouble sleeping. When combined with alcohol, benzodiazepines can cause dizziness and loss of coordination, drowsiness and an increased risk of an overdose.
  • Opioids are used as a prescription medication for pain. Heroin is another well-known opioid that is an illegal drug. When taken with alcohol, opioids can cause slow breathing, reduced brain activity, drowsiness, fainting, coma and potential overdoses.
  • Antidepressants are used to treat mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. When taken with alcohol, side effects can include dizziness, drowsiness, impaired memory, feeling more drunk that you normally would, higher blood pressure and potentially, a stroke.
  • Even antibiotics can cause issues when taken with alcohol. Symptoms can include dizziness, drowsiness, stomach pain, nausea, headaches and a fast or irregular heartbeat.

Ask your doctor

In general, you should ask your doctor about any potential side effects of taking any prescribed medication. In addition, you should ask whether it’s safe for you to consume alcohol while taking your medication.

See the ADF website for more information on the risks of taking pain medications while consuming alcohol.

As alluded to above, it’s also wise to be aware that the risk of combining drugs and alcohol isn’t exclusive to prescription medication. Mixing alcohol with illegal drugs such as heroin and ICE can have unpredictable and sometimes dangerous results. The same can be said when mixing any type of drugs – whether it’s a prescribed drug, an illegal drug or alcohol.

The implications for safety

Of course the danger of combining some drugs with alcohol can also leave you at an increased risk of having an accident. This is particularly the case while driving a car, operating machinery or undertaking any other task at home, in the workplace or on the road that needs your full concentration.

Clearly, some of the side effects mentioned above – such as dizziness, loss of coordination, drowsiness, reduced brain activity and fainting – are worrying when doing activities when safety is important.


Combining some drugs and alcohol can have unpredictable and sometimes dangerous consequences. Credit danilo.alvesd

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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