Cook Islands Ministry of Health chief pharmacist, Andrew Orange. 16080910
The dangers of drinking while also taking prescription medicine have been highlighted in a story by the NZ Herald. That danger is present here too, especially at this time of the year when people are “socialising” more, says Rarotonga hospital pharmacist Andrew Orange.
Asked to comment on the story, which
highlights the fact that taking some medications while drinking alcohol can
affect your body and mind in unexpected ways and can even kill you, Orange said
he had little to add, except to advise that it’s important to always carefully
read the labels on medicines before taking them.
“There’s always a warning on the label for
those medicines that shouldn’t be taken with alcohol.”
The NZ Herald story was written by Nial
Wheate, an associate professor of the Sydney Pharmacy School, University of
Sydney and Jessica Pace an associate lecturer at the University of Sydney
They say that after you take a medicine, it
travels, naturally enough, to the stomach.
“From there, your body shuttles it to the
liver, where the drug is metabolised and broken down before it goes into your
bloodstream. Every medicine you take is provided at a dose that takes into
account the amount of metabolism that occurs in the liver.
“When you drink alcohol, this is also
broken down in the liver, and it can affect how much of the drug is
“Some medicines are metabolised more, which
can mean not enough reaches your bloodstream to be effective.
“Some medicines are metabolised less. This
means you get a much higher dose than intended, which could lead to an
overdose. The effects of alcohol (such as sleepiness) can act in addition to
similar effects of a medicine.
“Whether or not you will have an
interaction, and what interaction you have, depends on many factors including
the medicine you are taking, the dose, how much alcohol you drink, your age,
genes, sex and overall health.”
The article says women, older people and
people with liver issues are more likely to have a drug interaction with
alcohol and adds that many medicines interact with alcohol regardless of
whether they are prescribed by your doctor or bought over the counter, such as
herbal medicines. Sometimes the effects can lead to death.
“Drinking alcohol and taking a medicine
that depresses the central nervous system to reduce arousal and stimulation can
have additive effects,” the article says.
“Together, these can make you extra drowsy,
slow your breathing and heart rate and, in extreme cases, lead to coma and
death. These effects are more likely if you use more than one of this type of
Medicines to look out for include those for
depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, pain (except paracetamol), sleep disturbances
(such as insomnia), allergies, and colds and flu.
“It’s best not to drink alcohol with these
medicines, or to keep your alcohol intake to a minimum,” the article warns.
“If you plan on drinking alcohol these
holidays and are concerned about any interaction with your medicines, don’t
just stop taking your medicines.”