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Risks of Mixing Ibuprofen & Alcohol

Consequences and What To Do

Mixing alcohol with medications is a practice that you should generally avoid.

Even with over-the-counter painkillers such as Advil, Mortin, and Midol, patients shouldn’t take them and drink alcohol or the other way around.

Although these medications don’t require a prescription and contain the generally safe active ingredient ibuprofen, they’re still strong and capable of producing dangerous side effects if taken with alcohol.

Today’s article discusses the risks of mixing ibuprofen and alcohol, what to do if that happens, how to safely take them, and alternative pain relief options you can couple with alcohol.

What Happens if You Take Ibuprofen With Alcohol?

Ibuprofen belongs to a class of medication known as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). It can alleviate pain, swelling, inflammation, and fever.

In most cases, it’s safe to take ibuprofen when consuming alcohol as long as you don’t drink more than the recommended daily guideline. That’s two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

If you exceed the limit of moderate alcohol consumption and take ibuprofen, you can experience side effects ranging from mild to serious. The following are the most common risks associated with mixing ibuprofen and alcohol:

Digestive Tract Problems

On its own, ibuprofen can irritate the gastrointestinal tract. This is why you shouldn’t take ibuprofen medications on an empty stomach; it’s best to take it with food or after a meal.

If you take ibuprofen for a long time or in higher doses than recommended, it can increase the chances of developing bleeding or ulcers in the stomach and intestine.

Also on its own, alcohol can irritate the digestive tract.

As such, mixing ibuprofen and alcohol is a recipe for raising the risk of gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding even more. The consequences of this interaction only get worse with prolonged use of ibuprofen with alcohol.

Kidney Issues

The primary function of kidneys is to filter out harmful substances from the blood and eliminate them as waste.

Alcohol is one of the toxins that the kidneys work to get rid of. By increasing your intake of alcohol, you’re putting your kidneys through an extra workload and upping the chances of renal damage.

The mechanism of action of ibuprofen involves hindering the production of an enzyme known as COX (cyclooxygenase) in the kidneys. Although this effect reduces pain and inflammation, it also alters the efficiency of renal filtration (even if for a temporary period).

Mixing ibuprofen and alcohol means that you’re making your kidneys work harder while already being at a lower efficiency. This can significantly increase the risk of developing kidney problems and disease.

Excessive Sleepiness

Alcohol intake can cause drowsiness. Ibuprofen can also result in a state of relaxation as it numbs the pain away.

Together, alcohol and ibuprofen can lead to an excessive slowing in reaction time and sleepiness.

The decreased alertness and impaired cognitive functions put you at greater risk of dangerous accidents, so never drive after drinking alcohol whether alone or with ibuprofen.

Will Ibuprofen and Alcohol Kill You?

While it’s usually safe to take ibuprofen and drink alcohol at the same time (following moderate consumption guidelines), their interaction can cause potentially life-threatening side effects if used in high doses, for a prolonged time, or irresponsibly.

For example, the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding increases when you combine ibuprofen with alcohol. If not addressed in due time, this bleeding can get worse and lead to death.

Also, the risk of renal damage is higher when you mix ibuprofen and alcohol. Kidney impairment can lead to kidney failure, which can be deadly.

Additionally, drinking alcohol and taking ibuprofen can make you excessively drowsy. The increased sleepiness, slowed reaction time, lack of balance, and impaired judgment can cause you to end up in a fatal accident.

Ibuprofen & Alcohol

What To Do if You Drink Alcohol and Take Ibuprofen

If you’ve taken ibuprofen and drank a small to moderate amount of alcohol with it, the first thing you should do is not consume any more alcohol.

From there, Have a snack or eat a small meal and drink plenty of water to decrease the risk of developing stomach problems.

When To See a Doctor

You should contact or visit your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:

  • Symptoms of gastrointestinal problems/bleeding such as persistent stomach pain or upset, blackened stool, an increased pulse, dizziness, fainting episodes, vomit that looks similar to coffee grounds, and/or blood in vomit.
  • Symptoms of kidney damage such as swelling (particularly in hands, ankles, or feet) shortness of breath, and excessive exhaustion.

How to Safely Take Ibuprofen and Alcohol

The safe way to take ibuprofen and alcohol is to consume each one separately.

If you only occasionally take ibuprofen and accidentally have a drink around the same time, you typically don’t need to worry about experiencing side effects. Still, it’s best to avoid combining the medication with alcohol.

You can also reduce the risk of side effects by eating a snack or small meal after combining ibuprofen and alcohol. However, this isn’t guaranteed to work every time or at all, so it’s still best to avoid the combination altogether.

If you suffer from kidney disease, liver disease, or substance abuse disorders, the side effects of taking ibuprofen with alcohol will be more severe.

When Can You Drink Alcohol After Taking Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen starts its pain-relieving effect after around 30 minutes from when you take it and lasts for about 6 hours. However, ibuprofen can stay in your body for up to 10 hours.

As such, it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol for at least 10 hours after taking ibuprofen to lower the chances of adverse effects.

When Can You Take Ibuprofen After Drinking Alcohol?

Alcohol can stay in your system for up to 24 hours, so you should wait for at least one day before taking ibuprofen.

Wrapping It Up

The risks of mixing ibuprofen and alcohol include gastrointestinal bleeding, kidney problems, and excessive drowsiness. If you experience any of the related symptoms mentioned above, contact your doctor immediately.