Alcohol and Antibiotics: A Problem Combination?
One of the most serious public health challenges in the world is the over-prescribing of antibiotics.
Data suggests that general practitioners are the biggest culprits, writing 90 percent of the prescriptions for respiratory tract infections and unwittingly creating a population that’s resistant to even some of the strongest, most effective antibiotics.
As a result, the population becomes more prone to infection and viruses.
“Antibiotics are lifesaving drugs, and if we continue down the road of inappropriate use, we’ll lose the most powerful tool we have to fight life-threatening infections,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director, Dr. Tom Frieden, announced in May 2016.
Though it receives less attention than the over-prescription of these drugs, mixing alcohol and antibiotics can lead to serious side effects, especially for alcohol-dependent people battling other health issues.
The double-whammy for this population is that excessive alcohol consumption decreases the immune system’s ability to fight infections on its own, which means more doctor visits and a greater likelihood of antibiotic prescriptions.
This can be a particular challenge for physicians because people struggling with alcoholism might not consider themselves addicts, or are unwilling to be honest and upfront about their substance abuse issues.
At the very least, there should be a greater public awareness about which antibiotics can cause dangerous side effects when mixed with alcohol.
Which Antibiotics Should Not Be Mixed With Alcohol?
First, it’s always a smart idea to ask the prescribing doctor or pharmacist about antibiotic interactions with alcohol.
Second, it’s important to understand which antibiotics, when mixed with alcohol, can cause serious side effects, such as some of the following:
Side Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Antibiotics Like Amoxicillin or Doxycycline
The side effects of consuming alcohol while on one of these antibiotics range in intensity and seriousness, but the range includes some of the following:
- Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Headache and skin flushing
- Excessive sweating
- High blood pressure
- Liver damage
Antibiotics often come with their own common side effects, like diarrhea, dizziness or fatigue and adding alcohol to the mix will likely make these symptoms worse.
Not everyone with an addiction or dependency to alcohol is open to changing their habits and there are, no doubt, high-functioning alcoholics.
However, long-term alcohol abuse damages various parts of the body and increases the likelihood of certain illnesses, like liver disease and some cancers.
The health outcomes of receiving treatment for alcohol addiction and learning to live sober are extremely beneficial.
In sobriety, the body is often able to heal much of the damage done by alcohol. People in recovery have more energy, better brain function and get much more restful sleep.
All of these things result in a healthier, stronger immune system, allowing the body to more efficiently fight common colds or flues that might otherwise require treatment with antibiotics.
Decreasing the stigma associated with alcohol addiction and substance abuse, in general, will allow people struggling with these issues to not just seek help when they’re ready, but to be more open with their doctors about it when they’re sick and in need of medical attention.
In turn, physicians can avoid prescribing antibiotics that might pose a risk to their patient’s immediate wellbeing and can start a dialogue about long-term health and wellness.
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