Acetaminophen and Alcohol

Everyday, we take over-the-counter or prescription pills to cure any discomfort and sickness. Although it’s great to enjoy easy and affordable access to medications, using them in the wrong way may lead to some serious consequences that can affect health and wellness. Acetaminophen, for example, is a type of painkiller in pain-relief medications. However, when it is combined with alcohol, serious damage can happen to the kidneys and liver.

Acetaminophen and Alcohol: Kidney Damage

Shockingly, one dose of acetaminophen mixed with a small amount of alcohol in your body has been associated with up to a staggering 123% increase in your chances of contracting kidney disease. Chronic intake of alcohol and acetaminophen have both been linked to the occurrence of kidney disease. Alcohol has been found to disrupt the gene that is responsible for processing the acetaminophen in the body. This is most likely the reason why the two might yield the results mentioned above.

What’s worrying is that many people freely take this medication in order to relieve pain and discomfort without previous knowledge about the dangers of combining the two. Many of the people who take this medication are also likely to drink alcohol; therefore, they can experience some very negative consequences. If you are a regular drinker, you may need to choose another painkiller. It you take acetaminophen, it is advisable that you give up alcohol to take care of your health.

Acetaminophen and Alcohol: Liver Damage

Take acetaminophen with alcohol can also hurt liver. 2E1 enzyme is an enzyme that is produced in the liver as a result of sustained drinking over a few days. When this enzyme comes into contact with the acetaminophen, a toxic substance called NAPQI will be created, which can kill liver cells.

Given this scenario, a person who takes over-the-counter pain relief to cure a hangover is actually doing himself more harm than good. While his intention is to alleviate his headache from consuming too much alcohol, he is actually causing a chemical reaction in his liver that will cause severe damage and increase his chances of liver failure. Seek emergency care if there are symptoms such as swelling and pain in the joints, lethargy, fatigue, fever, rashes, nausea and vomiting, strange bruises, and yellow skin or eyes.

There is one loophole – ingesting acetaminophen and alcohol at the same time actually decreases your chances of liver failure because the two substances compete for the 2E1 enzyme. However, this does not mean it is acceptable to take both substances without worrying about the consequences. It is still best to avoid this lethal combination. 

Watch for These Medicines That May Contain Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is an ingredient in over 600 pills in the US alone, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs. What follows is a list of common medicines that contain this painkiller. It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list, and that there are many other pills that contain acetaminophen. It is always best to check the labels of the pills you take to be sure of their contents. You can also ask your doctor or pharmacist about this.


Other Medicines That Interact with Alcohol

1.   Antidepressants

Antidepressants and alcohol both work by slowing down the central nervous system. This has an effect on your brain’s performance, hindering your ability to think clearly and rationally and making you less alert, coordinated, and responsive. Taking these two substances together will thus cause you to have impaired judgment. In fact, the combination can even worsen the symptoms of depression and counteract the effects of the drugs.

2.   Birth Control Pills

Oral contraceptives tend to retain alcohol in the body for longer periods of time, which means that women who take the pill are quick to become intoxicated when they drink alcohol. While this will not negate or alter the effects of the medication, the prolonged alcohol retention can mean impaired decision-making and reduced sexual inhibitions.

3.   Blood Pressure and Heart Medications

Just like acetaminophen and alcohol, medications for blood pressure and heart can also produce negative side-effects for the body when combined with alcohol. The alcohol minimizes the effects of the medication, making them ineffective in treating heart ailments and actually causing the blood pressure to experience a drastic drop.

4.   Cholesterol-Lowering Medications

It’s best not to drink too much if you’re also taking statins. People with a history of heavy drinking and also take cholesterol-lowering drugs on the regular basis are at high risk for liver damage. What’s worse, they may not show any outward symptoms and will only find out that their livers are damaged when they undergo a medical exam.

5.   Diabetes Medications

Drinking alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to drop even up to 24 hours after you consume it. When combined with diabetes medications, which also do the same thing, the lethal combination can cause your blood sugar to drop to very dangerous levels.

6.   Gastroesophageal Reflux and Ulcer Drugs

Drinking large quantities of alcohol can induce acid reflux because it relaxes the muscle located between your stomach and esophagus, and will cause a burning sensation in the back of your mouth. Alcohol combined with gastroesophageal reflux drug can make heart burn worse. It will also decrease the effectiveness of your ulcer medications.

7.   Sleeping Pills

The combination of alcohol and sleeping pills can drastically increase the effects of your sleeping pills, causing you to become severely dizzy and drowsy. This will make you more likely to injuries and accidents. Your blood pressure might also drop to dangerously low levels.

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