Painkillers and alcohol – questionable or not?

Man with pills in his left hand and a beer bottle in his right hand.

Anyone who takes painkillers such as ibuprofen should follow the instructions for use. (Source: AndreyPopov/Getty Images)
A glass of wine or beer after the painkiller? Read whether alcohol is problematic in combination with painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.

Anyone who has taken a painkiller with ibuprofen or paracetamol before a party may be wondering whether alcohol is now taboo – or whether you can allow yourself a glass or two.

How well do painkillers mix with alcohol? To answer the question, it helps to first take a look at the respective package insert. For active ingredients such as ibuprofen, paracetamol, diclofenac or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), it usually states that alcohol should be avoided as long as the medication is effective.

There are several reasons for this. On the one hand, alcohol can impair the effectiveness of various medications, but it can also lead to sometimes dangerous interactions. On the other hand, alcohol does not contribute to recovery in acute illness. On the contrary: alcohol deprives you of energy that the body actually needs to fight the disease.

Ibuprofen: Alcohol can increase side effects

When pain or fever occurs , many people resort to active ingredients from the group of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) or diclofenac. These are available in low doses from pharmacies without a prescription and have an anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving and fever-reducing effect.

Alcohol can increase unwanted effects of these medications. These primarily include complaints of the gastrointestinal tract. The combination of painkillers and alcohol can harm the digestive tract. In particular, the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and stomach or duodenal ulcers increases. Therefore, people who take ibuprofen or other painkillers from the NSAID group should not drink alcohol.

In addition, painkillers such as ibuprofen in higher doses can lead to tiredness or dizziness. In some people, the ability to react may be altered. If alcohol is added, these side effects can be exacerbated, which increases the risk of accidents – for example when operating a machine.

Some experts believe that small amounts of alcohol in combination with NSAIDs are acceptable for healthy people. However, if you want to be on the safe side, it is better to avoid alcohol.

Paracetamol and alcohol: liver damage possible

Paracetamol is also used more frequently in self-medication. It is not an NSAID, but also helps against pain and fever.

Paracetamol puts a strain on the liver. This can increase the risk of liver damage, especially when combined with various other medicines. This also applies in connection with alcohol: Anyone who takes paracetamol and regularly consumes alcohol or is an alcoholic risks liver damage and even liver failure. Paracetamol should therefore not be taken together with alcohol. If you already have a damaged liver, you should not take paracetamol or only take it after consulting your doctor.

If in doubt, seek advice

Basically, alcohol is not a good combination in conjunction with painkillers. Some people take painkillers for a long time. A doctor should decide individually to what extent they are allowed to consume alcohol.


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