Remember that alcohol (ethanaol) IS a drug

Always remember, alcohol IS a drug although we tend not to think of it that way--especially in the midst of a party and unfortunately perhaps in the depths of depression.

There are probably more than 5,000 brand and generic prescription and non-prescription medicines that interact with alcohol (what your doctor would call ethanol). This is why ethanol was included in The Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs for many many years and why it will be in the 2012 edition.

Make no mistake, many people have been hurt by the inadvertent combination of alcohol and prescription and non-prescription drugs and the resulting medical problems and even death that have ensued. It is crucial to always remember that medicines are not often studied in combination—especially in multiple medicine combinations. For example, if we take a look at someone who has diabetes, heart disease, heart burn, high blood pressure, arthritis, anxiety and ongoing back pain with sleep problems who is taking 14 different medicines.

Remarkably, alcohol can worsen the diabetes, worsen the blood sugar control, increase the blood pressure, worsen the heart burn (possibly leading to an ulcer), have bad effects on the stomach if combined with Aleve (naproxen or other NSAID) if that was being taken for the arthritis (possibly leading to an ulcer), have potentially catastrophic effects if combined (particularly) in high doses with the antianxiety medicine (remember past case of Karen Anne Quinlan who combined Valium, dextropoxyphene and alcohol)-but care is required for any benzodiazepine), can worsen any sleepiness and could even effect breathing if the back pain medicine was related to morphine (an opioid or meds such as Percocet) and can definitely interact with the sleep medicine such as Ambien.  What can make all of this worse is that within the potentially very very serious individual interactions, there are 3 interactions (the antianxiety, morphine-like and sleeping pill) which again when taken all together or even individually in some patients when combined with alcohol may have catastrophic effects and might even lead to death.

This is a sobering reality when even something so simple as Tylenol (acetaminophen) if taken with alcohol on a daily basis (for example,  “a drink or two” may have disasterous effects on the liver. Talk to your doctor on your next visit about possible alcohol and drug interactions with the medicines you take and BEFORE ever combining medicines (prescription, herbal, nonprescription) with alcohol.

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