Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Ibuprofen?

Side effects can be intensified by drinking alcohol

Man holding a beer.

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Medications containing ibuprofen already have the risk of producing some serious side-effects, therefore it is a very good possibility that drinking alcohol while taking ibuprofen could intensify those effects.

Ibuprofen is in a class of medications known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) which are used mainly to relieve pain. It is an over-the-counter medication but also is sometimes combined with other drugs in prescription medications. It is also used to reduce fever and to relieve minor aches and pain from headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, menstrual periods, the common cold, toothaches, and backaches.

Some of the brand names of ibuprofen include:

  • Addaprin
  • Advil
  • Cedaprin
  • I-Prin
  • Midol
  • Motrin
  • NeoProfen
  • Profen IB
  • Proprinal
  • Ultraprin

Can You Drink While Taking Ibuprofen?

The answer to whether or not you can consume alcohol while taking ibuprofen is, "it depends." If you are already experiencing some of the side-effects of ibuprofen listed below, you may not want to drink any amount of alcohol because you run the risk of increasing the severity of those effects.

If you are not having any side-effects from using ibuprofen, you may be able to drink a moderate amount of alcohol and not experience any negative reaction.

But, the keyword is "moderate," and that means less than 14 drinks a week for men and less than 7 drinks a week for women.

If you are a heavy drinker or a binge drinker or sometimes drink three or more drinks per day, you can significantly increase the risk of developing some of the side-effects listed below.

Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs have been found to cause ulcers which in some cases can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding or perforation (holes in the stomach or intestine).

These gastrointestinal problems have been found to develop at any time you are taking ibuprofen and can happen without any warning symptoms. Any of them could result in death if not caught or treated early enough.

One of the health risks of alcohol use listed in the U.S. National Library of Medicine's Medical Encyclopedia is bleeding from the stomach or esophagus. It stands to reason that if you are taking ibuprofen drinking alcohol can compound the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.

Interaction With Other Medications

Neither taking ibuprofen nor drinking alcohol is recommended while taking any of the following medications without informing your healthcare provider:

  • Blood thinners
  • Other NSAIDs
  • Oral steroids
  • Prednisone
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Side-Effects

If you experience any of the following symptoms it is recommended that you stop taking ibuprofen immediately and seek medical attention:

  • Stomach pain
  • Heartburn
  • Vomit that is bloody
  • Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • Blood in the stool
  • Black or tarry stools

Factors Increasing the Risk of Stomach Bleeding

The warning label on medications containing ibuprofen advises that the risk of stomach bleeding is increased if you:

  • Are older than 60 years
  • Take high doses of ibuprofen
  • Use ibuprofen for a long time
  • Use other blood thinners or steroids
  • Have preexisting stomach bleeding issues

Kidney Damage

Research has shown that long-term use of ibuprofen can damage the kidneys. Because heavy alcohol consumption can also cause kidney damage, it makes sense that using the two together can greatly increase the risk of developing kidney problems.

You could have problems with your kidneys if you are experiencing any of these symptoms:

  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in hands, feet, or ankles

Heart Disease or Stroke

Studies have found that people who take NSAIDs, other than aspirin, have a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke, compared with people who do not take NSAIDs. The risk is much greater for those who have taken NSAIDS such as ibuprofen for an extended period of time.

Heart attack and stroke as a result of taking ibuprofen can happen without warning and can be fatal.

Drinking alcohol can also cause heart problems in some people and make it more difficult to control high blood pressure for those who already have high blood pressure. Therefore, combining ibuprofen and alcohol could increase the risk of heart and blood pressure-related problems for some people.

If you are taking ibuprofen, it is recommended that you seek emergency medical assistance immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness in one part or side of the body
  • Slurred speech

Decreased Alertness

For some people, ibuprofen may cause drowsiness and cognitive issues, Because alcohol can also cause these, using ibuprofen and alcohol together can:

  • Increase the risk of being distracted
  • Slow reaction times
  • Increase sleepiness

Drinking and driving alone is dangerous, but driving while drinking and taking ibuprofen is certainly not recommended.

Other Side-Effects of Ibuprofen

Taking ibuprofen alone can produce side-effects that can be serious. If you experience any of the following, stop taking ibuprofen immediately and seek medical attention:

  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the abdomen, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • Fever
  • Blisters
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, throat, arms, or hands
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Pain in the upper right part of the stomach
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Pale skin
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Cloudy, discolored, or bloody urine
  • Back pain
  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Blurred vision, changes in color vision
  • Red or painful eyes
  • Stiff neck
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Aggression

If any of the following symptoms become severe or will not go away, tell your healthcare provider:

Greater Effect on Women

Because women tend to metabolize alcohol more slowly than men, alcohol remains in a woman's system for a longer period of time and, therefore, increases the likelihood that it will interact with ibuprofen even when drinking less alcohol.

Consequently, women who drink and take ibuprofen are at greater risk to develop damage to their kidneys and other organs. This is especially true for older women, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

A Word From Verywell

If you take ibuprofen occasionally to relieve a headache, pain, or fever, you are probably completely safe in drinking a moderate amount of alcohol. However, if you take ibuprofen daily for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or other chronic pain, you may want to think twice about combining it with alcohol.

Also, if you have been taking ibuprofen over an extended period of time, drinking alcohol in any amount may not be a good idea. If you are experiencing any of the side-effects listed above, you may also want to avoid consuming alcohol or consult a medical professional before doing so.

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Article Sources

  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. "Ibuprofen." Drugs, Herbs, and Supplements July 2016
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. "Ibuprofen overdose." Health Topics January 2015
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. "Health Risk of Alcohol Use." Health Topics February 2016