If you plan to ring in the New Year with champagne or another alcoholic drink, keep this in mind: For people on certain medications, drinking alcohol—even a small amount—can be dangerous.

More than 100 drugs interact with wine, beer, champagne, and hard liquor, triggering problems ranging from nausea and headaches to life-threatening issues, such as internal bleeding and difficulty breathing.

Most people aren't aware of these risks, say researchers at the National Institutes of Health who recently looked at the drinking and medication patterns of about 26,000 adults. Of greatest concern: They found that 42 percent of those who imbibed were also taking medication that could interact with alcohol.

Most alarming, almost 80 percent of people 65 and older who imbibed combined alcohol with dangerous drugs. The problem with that is aging slows down the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol, so it stays in a person's system longer. At the same time, older adults are also more likely to take one or more medications, multiplying the risk of interactions.

Those interactions can cause the alcohol to have a greater effect, increase the risk of drug side effects, or make the medication too powerful, says Aaron White, Ph.D., co-author of the study and senior scientific adviser to the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

With some medications, even one drink can pose hazards. And you may need to abstain from alcohol a day before or after taking certain drugs. So if you drink, talk with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any drug, especially those listed below.


Some meds also shouldn't be mixed with certain foods. See which ones you need to be concerned about.
 

Drugs That Are Dangerous With a Drink

These meds can cause problems when taken with alcohol.

Type of Medication

Common Example(s)

Increased Risk

Anti-anxiety drugs

Alprazolam (Xanax)

Diazepam (Valium)

Lorazepam (Ativan)

Dizziness

Drowsiness

Increased risk of overdose

Slowed or difficult breathing

Antihistamines

Brompheniramine (Dimetapp)

Cetirizine (Zyrtec)

Chlorpheniramine

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl Allergy, Sominex)

Dizziness

Drowsiness

Increased risk of overdose

Antibiotics

Azithromycin (Zithromax)

Doxycycline (Vibramycin)

Erythromycin

Metronidazole (Flagyl)

Nausea, vomiting, and flushing (with azithromycin and metronidazole)

Reduced efficacy (with doxycycline)

Increased alcohol intoxication (with erythromycin)

Blood pressure drugs

Captopril (Capoten)

Felodipine (Plendil)

Nifedipine

Diuretics, such as hydrochlorothiazide

Dizziness

Drowsiness

Fainting

Heart problems, such as arrhythmia 

Blood thinners

Warfarin (Coumadin)

Internal bleeding (with occasional drinking)

Blood clots, stroke, and heart attack (with heavier drinking)

Cholesterol drugs

Statins, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and simvastatin (Zocor) 

Liver damage

Muscle relaxants

Carisoprodol (Soma) and Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)

Dizziness

Drowsiness

Increased risk of seizures

Increased risk of overdose

Slowed or difficult breathing

Opioid pain relievers

Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Vicodin)

Meperidine (Demerol)

Morphine (Kadian)

-Oxycodone/acetaminophen (Percocet)

Dizziness

Drowsiness

Increased risk of overdose

Slowed or difficult breathing

Over-the-counter pain relievers

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), and naproxen (Aleve)

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Internal bleeding and ulcers (with NSAIDs)

Liver damage (with acetaminophen)

Editor's Note: This article and related materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multistate settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).