Alcohol and medication interactions

Alcohol Res Health. 1999;23(1):40-54.


Many medications can interact with alcohol, thereby altering the metabolism or effects of alcohol and/or the medication. Some of these interactions can occur even at moderate drinking levels and result in adverse health effects for the drinker. Two types of alcohol-medication interactions exist: (1) pharmacokinetic interactions, in which alcohol interferes with the metabolism of the medication, and (2) pharmacodynamic interactions, in which alcohol enhances the effects of the medication, particularly in the central nervous system (e.g., sedation). Pharmacokinetic interactions generally occur in the liver, where both alcohol and many medications are metabolized, frequently by the same enzymes. Numerous classes of prescription medications can interact with alcohol, including antibiotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, histamine H2 receptor antagonists, muscle relaxants, nonnarcotic pain medications and anti-inflammatory agents, opioids, and warfarin. In addition, many over-the-counter and herbal medications can cause negative effects when taken with alcohol.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Drug Interactions
  • Ethanol / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism


  • Ethanol