- Reuters/Toby Melville
- Drinking alcohol can be detrimental in certain circumstances.
- Drinking alcohol while taking certain medications can lead to serious side effects.
- If you consume a lot of alcohol on a plane, you’ll likely get dehydrated.
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Plenty of people enjoy having a drink with dinner or celebrating a special occasion with a round at the bar. Drinking alcohol, however, can have negative consequences for your health and many of those unpleasant effects are amplified if you imbibe at the wrong time. In fact, drinking at certain times can be downright dangerous.
Here are some situations that don’t mix well with alcohol.
Never drink alcohol when you’ve taken medication, including sedatives and painkillers
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Sedatives such as over-the-counter sleeping aids or prescription medications work by depressing your central nervous system, meaning that vital functions like your breathing and heart rate will slow when you take a sedative. This is how sedatives help you feel relaxed or sleepy.
Alcohol is also a central nervous system depressant. Combining a sedative medication and alcohol can amplify the effects of both, leading a person to feel extremely sleepy, disoriented, and confused. In some cases, the effects can be strong enough to cause seizures, breathing problems, unconsciousness, and death.
Drinking before or after taking common painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also be dangerous. Alcohol can interact with ibuprofen and other NSAIDs to cause stomach bleeding, and drinking while taking acetaminophen can cause liver damage when done in large amounts.
Because alcohol can cause adverse effects when mixed with many common medications, it’s best to avoid drinking while taking any drug unless you’ve received explicit permission from your healthcare provider.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, alcohol could interfere with your fertility
Alcohol can have a negative impact on your fertility even if you’re not a heavy drinker. In fact, both male and female fertility can be affected by alcohol.
According to Mayo Clinic, people looking to get pregnant should avoid drinking alcohol even before they have conceived. This is in part because a safe level of fetal alcohol exposure hasn’t yet been found. Research has also found that women who consumed at least two drinks a day had an increased risk of infertility.
In people with penises, alcohol consumption has been linked to decreased semen quality and poor sperm motility, i.e. sperm that don’t swim as well.
Avoid drinking when you’re flying
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It can be tempting to indulge in a complimentary drink on a long flight, but consuming alcohol in the air can be even more dehydrating than having a drink on the ground.
According to Cleveland Clinic, the low humidity and circulating air in plane cabins can lead to dehydration more quickly than you might experience in a similar length of time on land. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases the amount of fluid that your body expels.
The dry plane air coupled with frequent dashes to the lavatory is a recipe for a hangover, especially since dehydration is one of the key reasons alcohol can make you feel rotten after the initial buzz has faded.
Don’t drink before bed if you want to sleep well
Though a glass of wine before bed may make you sleepy, alcohol can actually contribute to poor sleep quality. According to the National Sleep Foundation, alcohol blocks restorative REM sleep and can interrupt your body’s circadian rhythm, leading you to wake up before you’ve actually had enough rest. And since alcohol is a diuretic, a drink before bed might have you waking up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Additionally, research has suggested that female bodies are more susceptible to sleep disruption from alcohol than male bodies. One study found that when both men and women slept after drinking the same amount of alcohol, the female study participants were more restless, got less high-quality REM sleep, and reported being more tired in the morning.
Alcohol can also make conditions such as sleep apnea worse, according to the National Health Service. Those prone to disrupted breathing at night may want to skip that nightcap.
You shouldn’t drive after consuming alcohol, even if you don’t feel drunk
- Thomas Trutschel / Contributor
This one should be obvious, but mixing alcohol and driving is a terrible (and illegal) idea. In 2016, the CDC reported that 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the US were linked to alcohol impairment.
Alcohol affects your ability to drive safely by slowing your reaction time, reducing your coordination skills and concentration, decreasing your vision, and impairing your judgment. In the US, a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 is considered legally impaired for people over 21. However, a BAC of just 0.02 can inhibit your judgment, coordination, and ability to see clearly. A BAC of 0.05 can further reduce your alertness, response rate, and ability to respond to your environment.
Having any amount of alcohol can affect your ability to drive safely and may put lives at risk.
Certain antibiotics don’t mix well with alcohol
You may have heard that drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics will lead to health problems or will even stop your medication from working. Though this isn’t the whole truth, there are some good reasons to hold off on the booze when you taking antibiotics.
According to the UK’s National Health Service, drinking alcohol in moderation is unlikely to cause health problems if you’re taking most common antibiotics. Additionally, combining moderate amounts of alcohol with antibiotics doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of most antibiotics, advised Mayo Clinic.
Drinking alcohol while on certain antibiotics, however, can cause reactions that range from unpleasant to dangerous, including liver damage and high blood pressure. These antibiotics include metronidazole (Flagyl), tinidazole (Tindamax), isoniazid, sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim (Bactrim), and linezolid (Zyvox).
You may also want to avoid drinking while on antibiotics because alcohol can depress your immune system. Given that antibiotics are taken to help your body fight off infection, drinking while sick can delay your recovery.
If you have depression or anxiety, drinking won’t relieve symptoms long-term
People who struggle with mental health problems such as depression or anxiety should avoid using alcohol to cope with their symptoms, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Though alcohol may help someone feel better or less anxious in the short-term, research has shown that regular alcohol use can actually worsen mood disorders over time.
The link between depression and alcohol isn’t completely understood, but experts do agree that using alcohol to treat a mental health problem isn’t a good idea and can potentially lead to alcohol abuse. The best way to help yourself feel better if you’re struggling with depression or anxiety is to seek the guidance of a mental health professional.