Alcohol often has harmful interactions with prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and even some herbal remedies. Alcohol interactions with medications may cause problems such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Changes in blood pressure
- Abnormal behavior
- Loss of coordination
Mixing alcohol and medications also may increase the risk of complications such as:
- Liver damage
- Heart problems
- Internal bleeding
- Impaired breathing
In some cases, alcohol interactions may decrease the effectiveness of medications or render them useless. In other cases, alcohol interactions may make drugs harmful or even toxic to the body.
Even in small amounts, alcohol also may intensify medication side effects such as sleepiness, drowsiness, and light-headedness, which may interfere with your concentration and ability to operate machinery or drive a vehicle, and lead to serious or even fatal accidents.
Because alcohol can adversely interact with hundreds of commonly used medications, it’s important to observe warning labels and ask your doctor or pharmacist if it’s safe to use alcohol with the medications and herbal remedies that you take.
Alcohol Interactions: A Significant and Increasing Danger
According to the CDC, about two-thirds of adults over age 18 at least occasionally use alcohol. Of these, 52% are current regular drinkers (defined as at least 12 drinks in the past year), and 14% are infrequent drinkers (defined as up to 11 drinks in the past year).
Use of prescription and non-prescription drugs, as well as herbal remedies, also is extremely prevalent. Partly because of the obesity epidemic and sedentary lifestyle, Kenyans of all ages are taking more drugs to control chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol. Because the incidence of chronic conditions increases with age, older Kenyans are especially likely to take prescription medications often as many as 10 per day many of which likely react adversely with alcohol.
As the population ages, the problems associated with mixing alcohol and medications are certain to increase.
Older Kenyans Are at Special Risk of Alcohol Interactions
In older adults especially, alcohol use may increase the risk for falls, serious injury, and disability related to balance problems. Alcohol use also may trigger or worsen certain medical conditions.
When alcohol use is combined with multiple medications, it may magnify these problems. Older adults don’t metabolize alcohol as quickly as younger adults do, so alcohol stays in their systems longer and has a greater potential to interact with medications.
Even though most people over 65 drink less than the maximum recommended amount, this drinking is still considered harmful in over 50% of them, due to their general condition, medical problems and medications.
Drugs Associated With Alcohol Interactions
Hundreds of commonly used prescription and over-the-counter drugs may adversely interact with alcohol. These include medications used for:
- Allergies, colds, and flu
- Angina and coronary heart disease
- Anxiety and epilepsy
- Blood clots
- Enlarged prostrate
- Heartburn and indigestion
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Muscle pain
- Nausea and motion sickness
- Pain, fever, and inflammation
- Severe pain from injury, post-surgical care, oral surgery, and migraine
- Sleep problems
Alcohol Detox Programs
Alcoholism is a chronic disease. Like other chronic diseases, if left untreated, alcoholism can have serious, life-threatening consequences. Fortunately, there are effective treatment programs for alcoholism. While details vary from program to program, alcohol detox and alcohol rehab programs share certain essential components.
What Is Alcohol Detoxification?
Alcohol detox is an important preliminary step in the management of alcoholism. It is a medically supervised period of alcohol withdrawal. During this period, a doctor may administer medications to control symptoms, and the individual is monitored by health professionals to ensure his or her safety. In addition to medical care during withdrawal from alcohol, the person usually also receives education about his or her alcohol problem and its treatment.
Medical management of alcohol withdrawal for people who are alcohol dependent is often necessary, because the symptoms of withdrawal can be dangerous. They can include:
Not everyone has all these symptoms, and symptom can range from mild to severe. Typically, alcohol detoxification takes place in a regular medical ward of a hospital, a specialized detoxification unit, or in an outpatient clinic. Detox, which may last a few days to more than a week, is an important and necessary preparation for treatment.
Kinds of Alcohol Rehab Programs
Hospital- or medical-clinic-based programs. These programs offer both alcohol detox and alcohol rehab on an inpatient basis in specialized units.
Residential rehab programs. These programs can last from a month to more than a year and take place in a residential environment. Often, the treatment is divided into a series of stages that the person goes through. For instance, in the beginning, a patient’s contact with others, including friends and family, is strictly limited. The idea is to develop a primary relationship with the other residents who are also recovering from alcoholism. Eventually, the person will be allowed more contact with people outside the residential community and may even go back to work or school, returning home to the treatment facility each day.
Partial hospitalization or day treatment. These programs provide four to eight hours of treatment a day at a hospital or clinic to people who live at home. They typically run for three months and work best for people with a supportive family and a stable home environment.
Outpatient programs. These are run at hospitals, health clinics, community mental health clinics, counselor’s offices, and residential facilities with outpatient clinics. Attendance requirements vary, and many of them are run in the evenings and on weekends to allow people to be able to continue working.
Intensive outpatient programs. These programs require nine to 20 hours of treatment per week and run for two months to one year. They work best for people who are motivated to participate and who have supportive families and friends.