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Alcohol: Is It OK to Drink When You're...?

Alcohol: Is It OK to Drink When You're...?

You might know that more than a drink or two a day is bad for your health. But in some cases, any alcohol at all may not be a great idea.
Taking Antibiotics

Alcohol can cause headaches, flushing, dizziness, vomiting, and a fast pulse with antibiotics like cefotetan, metronidazole, and tinidazole. Doxycycline or linezolid might not work like they're supposed to, so talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you have a drink if you're taking them. Other pairings may cause different side effects. Still, alcohol doesn't seem to interfere with most antibiotics. Just remember that heavy drinking can slow your immune response and make it harder for your body to fight infection, with or without medication.

Taking Antidepressants

Drinking while you're on antidepressants can worsen the very symptoms the medication is supposed to treat. It also might increase the type and level of side effects like dizziness, drowsiness, and slow reactions. Talk to your doctor before you have alcohol. If the doc says it's OK, take it slow at first and observe your reaction to the combination.

Managing High Blood Pressure

Regular or heavy drinking is likely to raise your blood pressure. That's bad news if you already have high numbers. But you can reverse much of this effect within a few weeks if you cut back or quit altogether. If you're a heavy drinker, talk to your doctor about easing off slowly. Your blood pressure might spike for several days if you quit too quickly.

Taking Nonprescription Painkillers

The three most common ones are acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen. If you're otherwise healthy and use them from time to time, a little alcohol shouldn't be a problem. But drinking could worsen various kidney, liver, and stomach problems that sometimes result from misuse or overuse of these drugs.

Trying to Get Pregnant

Even light drinking seems to make it harder for some women to get pregnant. Heavy drinking could disrupt your period and cause ovulation problems. It isn't a good idea for dads-to-be, either. Alcohol can lower sex drive, lessen sperm quality, and even cause impotence.

Recovering from a Concussion

Your brain is extra sensitive as it heals. Even light drinking can slow your recovery and disrupt your sleep, learning, and sexual function. Some people say alcohol affects them more after a brain injury. That means you get drunk more easily and could hurt yourself further.

Getting Fertility Treatment

Alcohol lowers your chances of getting pregnant with treatments like IVF (in vitro fertilization) and GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer). It also makes a successful pregnancy less likely. And it doesn't take much. In one study, women who had just four drinks a week had a lower successful birth rate. When both parents had four drinks a week, the rate went down even more.


Because of the way your body processes alcohol, your baby's brain gets even more of it than you do when you drink. The result is often a range of physical and mental birth defects known together as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Scientists don't know what, if any, level of alcohol is safe for your baby. So if you're pregnant or think you might be, cut out booze out completely.

Recovering From a Stroke

Alcohol could interfere with medicine designed to prevent another stroke. Blood-thinners like warfarin are one example. And stroke can make you more sensitive to alcohol's effects like problems with sleep, balance, and slurred speech. If you've just had a hemorrhagic stroke, you shouldn't drink alcohol for a few weeks. Ask your doctor when it's safe to drink again.


When you drink, alcohol enters your breast milk at around the same concentration as it goes into your blood. Any amount could cause problems for your baby's growth, mental development, or sleep patterns. If you have one drink, wait at least 2 to 3 hours for the alcohol to clear your system before you breastfeed. The amount of time alcohol spends in your milk goes up with each drink. So three drinks could linger for 6 to 8 hours. Add 2 to 3 more hours for each additional drink (glass of wine, beer, or shot of liquor).


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