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Risks of Mixing Ibuprofen & Alcohol

Consequences and What To Do

As general medical advice, mixing alcohol with medications is a practice that you should avoid even with over-the-counter painkillers such as brand names Advil, Motrin, and Midol – patients shouldn’t take them and drink alcohol at the same time to get away with increased risk of health conditions.

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 caused by drug interaction.

Following this talk, today’s article discusses the risks of mixing ibuprofen and alcohol, what to do if that happens, how to take them safely, and alternative pain reliever 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), which can alleviate pain management, swelling, inflammation, and fever.

In most cases, it’s safe to take ibuprofen when consuming alcohol as long as you only drink a small amount of alcohol, or it should not be more than the recommended daily guideline – two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

Please note that if you exceed the limit of moderate alcohol consumption and opt to take it, you can experience side effects of ibuprofen ranging from mild to severe. 

The following are the most common risk factors 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; taking it with food or after a meal is best.

If you have been into long-term use of ibuprofen or in higher doses than recommended, it can increase the chances of developing stomach bleeding or stomach ulcers and intestine.

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

As such, mixing ibuprofen and alcohol raises the risk of gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding even more. The consequences of this interaction only worsen with prolonged use of ibuprofen with alcohol.

Kidney Issues

The primary kidney function is to filter out harmful substances from the blood and eliminate them as waste, and alcohol is one of the toxins the kidneys work to eliminate. 

So, increasing your intake of alcohol is putting your kidneys through an extra workload and upping the chances of renal damage.

To dig into this discussion, 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).

So, mixing ibuprofen and alcohol means you’re making your kidneys work harder while already being at a lower efficiency, which can significantly increase the risk of developing kidney problems and chronic kidney disease.

Excessive Sleepiness

It is given that alcohol intake can cause drowsiness, while ibuprofen can also result in a state of pain relief. However, 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 simultaneously (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 time, this bleeding can worsen 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 tired. 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, you should first 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 or causing an upset stomach.

When To See a Doctor

Healthcare should always be our top priority; however, if you encounter the situations mentioned above due to mixing alcohol, let’s say you just have a glass of wine and you took ibuprofen earlier, you should contact or visit your doctor immediately once you experience any of the following:

  • Gastrointestinal problems/bleeding symptoms include persistent stomach pain or upset stomach, blackened stool, an increased pulse, dizziness, fainting episodes, vomiting similar to coffee grounds, and/or blood in vomit.
  • Symptoms of kidney damage include 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 separately – again, it should be taken independently.

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, so it’s still best to avoid the combination altogether.

Suppose you suffer from kidney disease, liver damage, liver disease, or substance abuse disorders. In that case, the side effects of taking ibuprofen with alcohol will be more severe, and medical attention should be considered and taken seriously.

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 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 related symptoms mentioned above, contact your doctor immediately.