Medicine is rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness before becoming available to the consumer. In the U.S., the FDA makes sure this happens. Once on the market, the FDA, along with the makers of the drug, continue to monitor the medicine for any unforeseen problems. Should an issue develop, or the safety of a medication come into question, a recall may be initiated.
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 any medications and herbal remedies that you take.
Alcohol Interactions: A Significant and Increasing Danger
According to the CDC, about two-thirds of American adults over age 18 at least occasionally use alcohol. Of these, about 51% are current regular drinkers (defined as at least 12 drinks in the past year), and about 13% 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, Americans 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 Americans 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.