Virtually every medication, prescription pill and drug, whether bought over the counter or prescribed by a doctor, will come with the warming DO NOT CONSUME WITH ALCOHOL. It seems so commonplace and widespread among medication that we barely even question it. But do we take heed? And do we even know WHY this warning has become so familiar?
Many of us might assume that this frequently seen caution is there because, when combined with alcohol, drugs are less effective and that they might not work at all, but in fact the contrary is true. No matter what drug it is, who prescribed it and what its purpose, if it says DO NOT MIX WITH ALCOHOL, then do not mix with alcohol.
One of the most troubling aspects of the amalgamation of drugs and alcohol is the fact that the effect and outcome are completely unpredictable, variable and irregular. One day you might have very little reaction or a mild enhancement of the drug, and on another day you could suffer severe alterations and even death.
The effect of combining drugs with alcohol is called potentiation. In pharmacology terms, this refers to the skewed and highly unpredictable physiological (and often psychological) response one has when mixing various medications with alcohol. Potentiation is not only extremely dangerous, it can even be fatal.
Not only does each drug react differently when combined with alcohol, but also each person’s reaction differs in function to their body type, general health, and any genetic predispositions. In addition to these physical factors, one must also account for other daily variables such as the individual’s hydration level, nourishment, their emotional state, the weather conditions and any number of aspects that could alter the drug’s potency and effect.
Mixing alcohol with medication can also be referred to as synergistic, which means that combining two or more substances achieves an effect greater than that which each substance is capable of delivering alone. For example: alcohol may have a potency value of one and Xanax may have a potency value of one. But when combined, they may have a geometric value of 3, 4 or more.
Any combination of medication with alcohol is not only inadvisable, but a dangerous game of Russian roulette. No matter how little alcohol you consume or how mild you perceive your medication to be, the sudden and erratic effects are so unpredictable that more often than not you won’t know how you will react…until it’s too late!