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Why alcohol and prescription medication do not mix

When your doctor prescribes medicine for a health condition, the bottle typically comes with specific instructions that include warnings about things you should avoid while taking it. One common warning is to avoid mixing your medication with alcohol. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are often potentially harmful events that could occur if you take your medication and drink alcohol at the same time.

Medical implications

Mixing medications and alcohol may cause you to experience serious adverse physical effects. For example, depending on your medical condition and the drug in question, you could develop heart problems even if you did not have cardiac issues before. You may also find that the mixture causes difficulty breathing or other medical problems, including the following:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Internal bleeding

If your prescription is supposed to help you avoid a serious problem, drinking alcohol may render the drug ineffective, leading to serious problems that the medication should have prevented. Even seemingly simple side effects, such as drowsiness, may be exacerbated by alcohol. Any reaction may take time to manifest, so you could discover symptoms unexpectedly developing after half an hour or more.

Danger to others

You may not be the only one who is affected by your physical reaction to the combination of drugs and alcohol. Particularly if you have a delayed reaction, you may have a false sense of confidence getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. Then, if you have a serious medical event while driving, it could cause you to lose control, leading to a crash that damages property or even injures or kills someone in another vehicle or a pedestrian.

Normally, you may be able to drink a beer or glass of wine and remain far below the legal blood alcohol concentration limit of .08 percent. However, when medication is present in your system, you may discover that after just one drink you have significantly lost your coordination, ability to process information or ability to react quickly. If your medication's ingredients include alcohol, you could actually have a higher BAC without realizing it.

If law enforcement officials notice that you are having trouble controlling your vehicle, you may find yourself facing consequences for driving impaired, even if your BAC is below .08 percent. Consequences often include the loss of driving privileges, fines and restitution for any damages you may have inadvertently caused. You may find that a DUI/DWI attorney is able to provide advice on the best way to handle any legal issues that may arise as a result.

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