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Ulcer drugs make a drink more potent.

For some ulcer sufferers, a sip of the grape or the grain may pack a surprisingly strong punch. Clinical studies suggest that two commonly prescribed ulcer medications can significantly increase alcohol's intoxicating effects.

In 1989, researchers led by Charles S. Lieber of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City found that people taking the ulcer drug cimetidine (Tagamet) may become intoxicated even if they drink only small amounts of liquor. Now, the same team reports that another commonly prescribed ulcer drug, ranitidine (Zantac), also boosts the effects of liquor. Now, the same team reports that another commonly prescribed ulcer drug, ranitidine (Zantac), also boosts the effects of liquor.

In the Jan. 1 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, Lieber and his colleagues describe a study in which they gave 20 healthy men breakfast followed by a glass of orange juice spiked with an alcohol dose equivalent to 1 1/2 glasses of wine or beer. To establish a baseline, the researchers measured blood-alcohol concentrations after the volunteers consumed the drink. Then, for the next week, they gave eight men 300 milligrams per day of ranitidine, six men, 1,000 milligrams per day of cimetidine and six men 400 milligrams per day of famotidine (Pepcid), another ulcer medication.

At the end of the week, the researchers again gave the volunteers an orange juice spiked with alcohol. Ranitidine and cimetidine treatment boosted the group's mean peak blood-alcohol concentration by 34 and 92 percent, respectively, compared with baseline. Famotidine had no significant effect on blood-alcohol concentration.

The researchers can't completely explain the alcohol-enhancing ability of the two drugs. Lieber notes, however, that both cimetidine and ranitidine belong to a class of drugs that inhibit gastric alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol. When the enzyme activity is slowed, more alcohol reaches the bloodstream, he suggests. Thus, people who drink while taking these drugs may run a risk of impaired functioning, which could make driving a car and other attention-oriented tasks hazardous, Lieber says.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 11, 1992
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