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Does Alcohol Affect Antibiotics?

What Are Antibiotics?

Before looking specifically at the relationship between alcohol and antibiotics, these medicines are prescribed by doctors to stop infections resulting from bacteria. Antibiotics can work by killing bacteria or preventing it from reproducing.

Prior to the introduction of antibiotics, it was relatively common for people to die from what we see as minor infections today, such as strep throat. Some of the infections treated by antibiotics include ear and sinus infections, dental, skin, bladder and kidney infections, whooping cough and strep throat, among others.

Antibiotics aren't effective against viruses like the flu, and some tests can be done to determine whether an illness is the result of bacteria or a virus.

While antibiotics are commonly prescribed, they can have some side effects including vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain and appetite loss.

The concept of antibiotic resistance has become increasingly problematic over the decades as well. Overuse of antibiotics has led to bacteria adapting to be resistant to these medicines.

Alcohol and antibiotics shouldn't be mixed for many reasons, but there is one commonly heard misconception when it comes it comes to alcohol and antibiotics. People tend to think that when they mix alcohol and antibiotics, it makes the antibiotics ineffective, and this isn't necessarily the case. With that being said, there are other reasons not to mix alcohol and antibiotics.

So where did the idea of alcohol making antibiotics ineffective stem from?

There are theories that it goes back to the 1950s. Antibiotics were starting to be used as treatments for various STDs, and it seems that the advice that alcohol and antibiotics make the medicine ineffective actually came from the fact that doctors didn't want people to drink and potentially spread STDs in the process. Of course, that's just one theory, but it would make sense since there's not any chemical interaction that should mean combining alcohol and antibiotics would lead to them not working.

The myth of alcohol and antibiotics is one that's pervasive in the minds of most of us, but it's just that: a myth.

So, does alcohol affect antibiotics? No, at least not in the sense that they won't work. However, there are other reasons it's not a good idea to combine alcohol and antibiotics.

How Does Alcohol Affect Antibiotics?

With alcohol and antibiotics, there are plenty of reasons not to mix them. First, alcohol wreaks havoc on your immune system and response, and if you have a bacterial infection requiring antibiotics, you shouldn't be drinking for that reason.

You are putting your body at a disadvantage when it comes to warding off infection and getting better, so your symptoms may get worse, or it may take you longer to recover if you're mixing alcohol and antibiotics. Basically what this means is that your antibiotics are probably working just as they should even if you're drinking, but it's your body that's having trouble.

Another thing to consider with alcohol and antibiotics is the fact that drinking interferes with the essential processes of your body like your sleep and hydration, and these are critical components of recovering from a bacterial illness.

While the myth of alcohol and antibiotics might not generally hold true, with some antibiotics, combining them with alcohol can be dangerous.

There are a few types of antibiotics including metronidazole, tinidazole, and sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim that shouldn't be used with alcohol. The alcohol and antibiotics aren't good with these particular medicines because these specific drugs block one of the body's pathways that metabolizes alcohol. When you combine antibiotics and alcohol regarding these specific drugs, it can lead to a buildup of components of alcohol called acetaldehyde. These are what cause many hangover symptoms, and if you mix alcohol and antibiotics at least with these particular drugs, it can lead to symptoms like fainting, vomiting, and flushing of the skin. This can happen with only a small amount of alcohol.

There are also a few antibiotics that can have an impact on the liver, such as flucloxacillin. They can inflame the liver, and with alcohol and antibiotics, at least with these, in particular, your liver may be working particularly hard, and it can lead to an infection like glandular fever.

With alcohol and antibiotics, there's one other thing to think about as well, which is the general side effects of antibiotics. The most common side effects include stomach problems, drowsiness, and dizziness. If you combine alcohol and antibiotics, these side effects can be amplified, which can be uncomfortable or potentially harmful.

So, to wrap up, does alcohol affect antibiotics? In most cases no although alcohol and antibiotics combined can lead to more intense side effects. Also, while alcohol and antibiotics aren't going to render your medication ineffective, it can worsen the symptoms of your illness and weaken your immune system, which is never good if you have a bacterial infection.

Finally, while the majority of alcohol and antibiotics aren't problematic together, certain types can be. You should always speak to your doctor about alcohol and antibiotics to get their advice.
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Publication:Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra, Ghana)
Date:Sep 5, 2019
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