Indocin (Indomethacin) and Alcohol

Indocin is a prescription medication used to treat arthritis, bursitis, and tendonitis. It works by blocking the bodily process that causes inflammation, swelling, and pain.

Indocin is one brand name of the medication indomethacin, which is also sold under the brand name Tivorbex. Indocin is a form of indomethacin that is taken as a capsule. The drug is also available as a suppository.

It is not safe to drink alcohol if you are taking Indocin. Like many medications, this drug can react with alcohol, causing severe side effects.

pills and alcohol

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Mixing Alcohol and Medication

Alcohol and prescription medications are both very common. Sixty-six percent of American adults take prescription medication regularly, and nearly 70% drink in a given year. Because of that, it's no surprise that many people feel comfortable combining alcohol and prescription drugs.

However, it’s important to remember that alcohol is a drug that can interact with and interfere with both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications. Because of that, there are many medications that should never be taken at the same time as alcohol, including OTC medications. 

The side effects of mixing alcohol and medications will depend on the medications that you're taking and the amount of alcohol you're drinking. Side effects can include:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness

In addition, alcohol can make your medications less effective. This is because alcohol interferes with the active ingredients in medications, making them less able to have the desired effects.

What if I Take My Medication in the Morning and Drink at Night?

Medications like Indocin are designed to stay in your system for a long time, so even if you take a pill in the morning, the medication can still interact with a drink that you have in the evening.

Everyone can experience complications from taking alcohol and medications. However, older people are especially at risk for consequences from using both medications and alcohol and should be extra cautious.

Be Honest About Your Alcohol Consumption

It's important to talk to your healthcare provider about your alcohol use so that they understand how this might impact the medications that they prescribe for you.

Remember to be honest with your healthcare provider—shying away from the truth about your alcohol intake could mean that your medications will not work in the way your practitioner intends.

Indocin and Alcohol

Indocin and alcohol have a moderate interaction. If you are prescribed Indocin, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider about what amount of alcohol—if any—is safe to use while you’re on the medication. It's safest to avoid alcohol altogether while you're taking Indoin.

If you do drink alcohol while you’re on Indocin, you can increase your risk of internal bleeding. That's already a concern for people who are on Indocin, so it's best no to compound the risk.

In addition to the concern about stomach bleeding, both Indocin and alcohol can tax your liver. Liver disease, or hepatotoxicity, is a known side effect of Indocin. It affects about 1% of people. However, up to 15% of people can experience milder side effects in their livers.

Since alcohol is also linked to liver disease, it’s a good idea to avoid alcohol while you are taking Indocin. 

Gastric Bleeding Risk

Indocin is part of a class of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. NSAIDs are linked with increased risk for gastrointestinal bleeding, ulceration and perforation. These are serious conditions that can even be deadly. 

The risk of gastric side effects from NSAIDs like Indocin are greatest for the elderly and people who have previously experienced ulcers or bleeding: their risk is ten times higher than patients who are not in these groups.

However, gastric bleeding can happen to anyone. About 4% of people who take Indocin for 6 months or more will experience gastric complications. Because of that, it’s important that people who have been prescribed Indocin are familiar with the symptoms of gastric bleeding. 

Signs of stomach ulcers or bleeding include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unusual bruising
  • Blood in the stool or vomit
  • Black or tarry stools

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

If you are on Indocin and experience any of the above symptoms, you should reach out to your healthcare provider immediately. It’s also important that you take the smallest effective dosage of Indocin, for the shortest time in order to reduce your risk for bleeding. 

Other Risks Of Indocin

Your healthcare provider or pharmacist should talk to you about the side effects of any medications that you are taking. In addition to the risk of gastric bleeding, Indocin and other NSAID medications can increase your risk for heart attack or stroke. Because of that, they shouldn't be used by people with a history of cardiovascular disease. In addition, women who are pregnant should not take NSAIDs after 20 weeks gestation.

If you're concerned about these or other risks of Indocin, it's best to talk to your healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

Many people like to unwind with a drink, but alcohol can have serious implications for health. This is especially true if you’re on prescription or OTC medications, including Indocin. 

If you are taking this medication, you should avoid any alcohol use. If that’s not conducive to your lifestyle, you can talk to your healthcare provider about whether there are other treatment options for your arthritis. Although the risk of combining alcohol and Indocin might seem small, it is serious, and should not be taken lightly.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Indomethacin.

  2. Georgetown University Health Policy Center. Prescription drugs

  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Mixing alcohol with medicines

  4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Mixing alcohol with medicines

  5. Food and Drug Administration. Highlights of prescribing information: Indocin.

By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.