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Alcohol can have some major side effects when used alongside many drugs and medications. While you might not think much about using alcoholic drinks as a way to calm down or relieve stress and pain, mixing alcohol with prescription drugs like ibuprofen can be dangerous.
If you are somebody who uses prescription medication or other drugs, then you need to think carefully before you decide to mix alcohol into your body as well. While both alcohol and ibuprofen are fairly harmless on their own, mixing them however can cause serious harm.
Mixing ibuprofen with alcohol can kill you in some cases, so it is important that you keep these substances away from each other.
Before you can be aware of the dangers of combining ibuprofen and alcohol, it is important to know how both of them work. Many people are actively taking ibuprofen without even knowing how it interacts with their bodies.
Ibuprofen blocks COX, an enzyme in your body that creates the swelling and pain you feel when your body suffers an internal problem or threat. These enzymes are also used to keep your kidneys running, tackle internal bleeding problems, and keep your digestive tract healthy.
This allows ibuprofen to work as pain medication, but it also means that there are some noticeable side effects if you use too much too quickly. Ibuprofen is designed for treating moderate pain and reducing fever and inflammation.
Most people understand how alcohol works. The alcohol content of alcoholic drinks forces your body to slow down, often leading to reduced awareness and reaction times. As a depressant, it effectively slows down your entire body.
This process can often influence some of the same enzymes and organs as certain medications, meaning that the two overlap. If you use both at the same time – or even within a short enough span of time – then you might suffer some even worse potential side effects.
Drinking alcohol and taking ibuprofen at the same time can pose several major health risks. Both alcohol and ibuprofen inhibit your awareness of your own body and the things happening around you and can make you excessively drowsy if you are not careful.
Other minor side effects include diarrhea, constipation, bloating, headache and ringing ears.
More importantly, the side effects of using both can become far more significant, especially if they are side effects that both substances can cause.
When it comes to both ibuprofen and alcohol, there are some basic side effects worth knowing about. These can include:
Mixing alcohol and ibuprofen can lead to some major health risks, many of which can progress into even worse forms if left unchecked. A lot of these issues are more than just small changes to your health in the short term and can lead to organ damage or long-term problems.
It is also important to note that, in some cases, these risks can be fatal. Even if they are not directly fatal, they can contribute towards other problems that may be, or even lead to, permanent health problems that can be fatal a lot further down the line.
Here are the major risks involved in mixing alcohol and ibuprofen and the primary reasons why you should avoid using both ibuprofen and alcohol at the same time – no matter the situation.
It is important to remember consumption of both substances can also cause more severe consequences and complications including seizures, heart problems, live problems, substance use disorders and dangerous accidents.
The drowsiness and nausea of using alcoholic beverages and taking painkillers become far more pronounced if you mix both. For example, you might pass out instead of just getting drowsy or start to projectile vomit instead of simply being nauseous.
While not necessarily a major problem at first, these can compound existing issues and put much more strain on specific organs. In extreme cases, they could even become part of a sequence of problems that ends up being fatal, such as persistent vomiting causing excessive stomach damage and leading to major internal bleeding.
Your kidneys filter out any harmful substances you put into your body, making them a major part of how you process alcohol as well as a range of prescription medication types. Of course, using both of these substances at once can overwhelm them, causing major kidney damage in the long term.
The higher the dosages, the more significant this kidney damage becomes. In extreme cases, this might lead to life threatening kidney disease or even kidney failure. If you have a history of kidney issues, then you should ideally talk to a doctor before drinking or using any medication.
Liver damage is also a common side effect. Your liver is used to metabolize alcohol and drugs into a usable form and can once again be overwhelmed if you use too much of either (or start mixing them both).
Consistent alcohol and drug abuse will cause this serious damage to get worse and worse -and unlike your kidneys, you only have one liver, making liver damage even more of an urgent matter.
Mixing alcohol and ibuprofen can irritate your stomach lining, leading to stomach pain and internal bleeding. The more intense the damage, the more significant the internal bleeding, along with the associated symptoms like vomiting blood.
This can be very hard to heal, especially if you are still actively drinking alcohol and using ibuprofen. Over time, this can spiral into a far more significant set of health concerns, potentially requiring surgery to even have a chance of fixing them.
Taking either of these substances can lead to more frequent strokes and other issues regarding your brain. Considering how unpredictable strokes can be, these could cause permanent damage to how your brain functions or even become fatal in certain cases.
Considering the other risks posed by mixing alcohol and ibuprofen, strokes can be even more dangerous than expected. For example, your stroke may be mistaken for drunkenness – especially if you are drunk when one occurs. If this happens, you may not get the medical help you need to deal with those problems correctly.
This mixture can also dramatically increase the risk of cardiovascular issues, ranging from heart disease to full-on life threatening heart attacks. While this might sound like something that only happens after excessive or regular use, the truth is that ibuprofen mixed with alcohol could cause this at any moment.
Since both taking ibuprofen and drinking alcohol will lower your heart rate and breathing rate even more than they would individually, it is entirely possible to suffer a heart attack as a result of trying to mix ibuprofen with alcohol, even if you are not a consistent user of either.
The general damage that drinking alcohol and ibuprofen mixed can cause is important. In theory, almost anything could happen if you are mixing alcohol and ibuprofen regularly – you may fall asleep in a place where you can’t breathe correctly and suffocate or accelerate a pre-existing condition.
While the effects of trying to mix alcohol with ibuprofen are quite clear, that does not mean that mixing ibuprofen and alcohol is a consistent and predictable thing. Doing so could result in anything from breathing difficulties and stomach ulcers to a rapid heartbeat and permanent mental damage.
As a pain killer and pain relief measure, ibuprofen is available without a prescription, although it can be prescribed by doctors too. Either way, it is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (also known as an NSAID), meaning that it is meant to be one of the more moderate ways of relieving pain compared to more serious medication.
However, using ibuprofen safely is important. Drug interactions are inherently unpredictable and hard to protect against, and even allergy medications can cause problems if used incorrectly.
Ibuprofen should be taken as directed on the bottle or packaging, and the dosage depends on your age. Note that ibuprofen is not always the same level of strength, but in most cases, taking ibuprofen in a set amount will produce roughly the same results each time.
Adults should take 1-2 tablets every 4-6 hours (around 200mg in total) but should never use more than 6 tablets (generally around (1,200mg) in a single 24-hour period. Adults can take paracetamol at the same time if absolutely necessary, but this is not always the best idea.
In children, ibuprofen needs to be taken at lower dosages. Talk to a doctor if you are not sure how to measure out the right dosage since these warning labels are there for a reason.
It is important to not take more than your recommended dosage, even if the prescription pills have not dulled your pain yet. Even taking a few pills more than normal could cause anything from blood pressure issues to organ damage.
There are not any known notable interactions involved in mixing ibuprofen into food or (non-alcoholic) drinks. Taking ibuprofen alongside food is not generally going to cause any problems other than potentially slower digestion.
Ibuprofen can be unpredictable when you are mixing drugs. Not only can this change how effective the medicine is, but it can become actively harmful if you mix ibuprofen with the wrong substances.
For example, if you use an antidepressant drug regularly or rely on beta-blockers, you may want to avoid taking ibuprofen unless you know it is safe. Even without falling into substance abuse, mixing ibuprofen with the wrong drugs can trigger a range of minor and major problems.
As mentioned above, there are some immediate effects of drinking alcohol and using ibuprofen at the same time, such as gastrointestinal bleeding and blood pressure issues. However, the long-term side effects are also a major cause for concern.
Overdosing can be incredibly damaging and often leads to fatalities. It is possible to overdose on either or both when mixing alcohol and ibuprofen, which can make it even harder for a medical professional to reach and help you in time.
It is also entirely possible to develop either an alcohol addiction, painkiller addiction, or both. An addiction to taking ibuprofen and drinking alcohol can be awful in either case, and an addiction to both can make it all the more likely that you die from an accidental overdose or bad reaction.
Other long-term side effects are the same as using the substances in the long-term anyway: alcohol poisoning, central nervous system damage, poor pain management due to excessive use of painkillers, panic attacks, difficulty breathing, a “beer belly”, and bad long-term medication and drinking habits.
The obvious additions of alcohol poisoning (from choosing to drink alcohol constantly) should also be noted. Even if you do drink alcohol when using medication, avoid drinking alcoholic beverages to the level of alcohol abuse. Otherwise, you may develop issues like stomach pain due to the alcohol itself.
It is important to seek treatment and medical help as soon as you notice major medical concerns or issues and to avoid alcohol and ibuprofen (along with other medications) until you can get the help you need. Some major causes for alarm are:
If you mix the two, then you need to seek medical help immediately at the first sign of a problem – or ideally even beforehand. While you might remain fine if you have taken only tiny doses, the severe side effects can still sneak up on you.
Regardless of whether you are overdosing or have only had “one or two drinks”, the two substances can be a deadly mix. Get medical help as soon as possible, ideally by either calling an ambulance or getting driven to the nearest hospital. If you are at an event with medics on standby, get their attention immediately.
You should never take ibuprofen with alcohol, but there are a lot of other drugs (both legal and illegal drugs) that you should avoid when taking alcohol into account. These include:
Whether it is your first alcoholic drink that night or you have had a few drinks already, avoid drinking alcohol and taking any of these substances. Despite being two over the counter drugs that are relatively common, taking ibuprofen or mixing Benadryl with alcohol can be just as bad as any over-the-counter pain relief medication.
What Happens if You Take Ibuprofen and Then Drink Alcohol?
If you drink alcohol after taking ibuprofen this will usually cause stomach irritation at first. If you continue to drink alcohol and take more ibuprofen, the side effects can become more and more extreme, with severe side effects including nervous system damage, extreme drowsiness and even death.
Combining alcohol with ibuprofen can be safe if you are taking a single over-the-counter painkiller. The more you take ibuprofen and drink alcohol, the less safe it gets, so it is often a good idea to avoid ingesting pain relievers mixed with alcohol as a whole.
Note that “mixing” alcohol with ibuprofen does not mean physically mixing them in one alcoholic drink. If you take ibuprofen and drink alcohol a short while after, they will still mix in your body and organs. It is important to be aware, it is not just heavy drinkers or those who take alcohol/ibuprofen in high doses that are at risk.
Ideally, you should not exceed the daily guideline amount of alcohol. Any more than that can cause central nervous system damage, especially if your body is trying to metabolize alcohol alongside painkillers.
The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) is aware of the high rate of alcohol use and the high rate of over-the-counter drug dependency and tries to make users aware of the dangers. In general, if you take ibuprofen, hold off on having any more alcohol than your daily limit.
Using the two substances as far as apart as possible is the best way to avoid any major issues. If you can, try to wait at least a day to take ibuprofen, more if you consumed a lot of alcohol in the past day or two.
While the pain management and relief effects you get when you take ibuprofen may be desirable, you want the alcohol out of your system first. The more alcohol you still have in your body, the worse things can get.
Alcohol does not play well with any drugs, and using too much alcohol alongside medication can be a fatal mistake. While it might be safe to use very specific amounts of alcohol alongside your medication, you need to be careful about what you are doing.
Take steps to limit your alcohol intake when you are relying on painkillers like ibuprofen, and do not be afraid to seek medical support if you worry that you may have taken alcohol alongside pain relievers or other medication without realising what you were doing.
If you find that you have become addicted to drugs or alcohol, please make sure to contact our addiction treatment team today. We can provide you with the help and support you need within a supportive environment.
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