Which Pain Relievers Can You Take with Alcohol?

Editor
Mixing pain relievers with booze is never a great decision
Tylenol

Photo Modified: Flickr/ Austin Kirk/ CC4.0

Mixing Tylenol and alcohol can damage the liver and kidneys.

So you’ve had one too many glasses of wine with dinner and you feel a headache coming on. You reach into your bag and track down some Advil, but is it a good idea to take it? Alcohol doesn’t just get you drunk, it affects your entire body, and when combined with medicines, it can cause some adverse reactions. Here’s how alcohol reacts with four of the main varieties of over-the-counter painkillers.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Mixing Tylenol with alcohol is a really bad idea. According to WebMD, a 2013 report found that combining Tylenol with even a small amount of alcohol can raise your risk of kidney disease by a whopping 123 percent. While neither normal acetaminophen use nor light-to-moderate drinking posed a threat to kidneys, as soon as the two were combined the ill effects become evident. Be careful not to take acetaminophen in excess, with or without alcohol; it’s the number one cause of acute liver failure in the United States.

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
Both ibuprofen and alcohol can irritate your stomach, so combining the two can result in stomach issues, including upper gastrointestinal bleeding, according to Healthline. However, taking a normal dose of ibuprofen after drinking a small amount of alcohol will not be harmful to most people. Everyday Health agrees, but suggests that you limit alcohol use while taking any medication.

Aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin, Excedrin)
The main risk of combining alcohol and aspirin is that of stomach bleeding, so notify your doctor if you experience any symptoms. Also, a 1990 study found that taking two aspirin tablets an hour before drinking increased blood alcohol levels by 30 percent more than alcohol alone, so mixing the two can potentially increase your level of impairment.

Naproxen (Aleve)
Like aspirin, naproxen carries the risk of causing stomach bleeding with combined with alcohol. It’s generally considered safe to mix the two in moderate amounts, but it’s advisable to avoid any painkiller when drinking heavily.

If you’re taking prescription painkillers as opposed to over-the-counter ones, you should definitely stay away from alcohol; Oxycodone, for example, depresses the central nervous system, and when mixed with alcohol can slow your breathing until it stops. If you’re going to mix over-the-counter painkillers with alcohol, make sure you read the warning labels, don’t take more than the suggested dosage, and don’t drink in excess. 

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