Why is Mixing Ibuprofen with Alcohol Dangerous?

Ibuprofen is an over-the-counter medicine that is used for pain relief, commonly for headaches, dental pain, menstrual cramps, muscle aches, and more. We also use this to decrease fever or mild body aches when trying to get over a cold or flu. This drug is available under different brand names like Motrin, Midol, and Advil.

Ibuprofen is usually safe when taken in small doses. However, it tends to irritate the digestive tract. That’s why doctors recommend taking the medication with food. When a person frequently ingests ibuprofen for a long time, they have a higher risk of gastric ulcers and stomach bleeding.

Alcohol, in the same way, is also a digestive tract irritant. Drinking an alcoholic beverage boosts acid secretion in the stomach. A high amount of acid in the digestive tract can result in the thinning of the digestive lining, making the tissues around it vulnerable to damage.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that ibuprofen and alcohol interact with each other to cause health risks in a person’s body. It’s essential to be aware of the potential side effects of the combination of these two substances.

What Is Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is a pain reliever and a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It functions as a medication that blocks the hormones that cause swelling and inflammation. Ibuprofen works by decreasing the number of certain prostaglandins in the body. Those prostaglandins are chemicals that trigger pain and swelling. Having low prostaglandins results in experiencing less pain in the body.

Prostaglandins also play a role in protecting the digestive tract’s mucous lining from irritants and helping the kidneys filter out harmful elements from the blood. When prostaglandin levels lower because of ibuprofen intake, there is a risk of the following side effects:

● Stomach and gastrointestinal ulcers

● Digestive tract irritation

● Bleeding problems

● Damaged kidneys

Ibuprofen is available as tablets, as capsules, as ingestible syrup, and sometimes as a gel to apply on the skin. It is safest when we take it for a short period. You can also consult your doctor for alternative medication if you need to relieve any long-term physical pain. But individuals should still follow their prescriptions and recommended dosage if they do have it.

Misuse and abuse of ibuprofen are proven to lead to a higher risk of stomach ulcer bleeding, drug dependence, and even overdose. It’s important always to check the ingredients and ingest them at the shortest possible time and the lowest possible dosage.

What Happens If You Drink Alcohol with Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen and alcohol are relatively safe when consumed in small amounts. However, there have been proven mild to grave consequences in the body from frequently taking ibuprofen with moderate alcohol drinking. For women, this means one drink, and for men, two drinks.

Regular intake of ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen with alcohol use is dangerous and potentially lethal. When the two substances interact, the likelihood of ulcers and bleeding doubles, and the side effects in the body become more serious.

Taking these two substances may also simultaneously potentially lead to kidney failure. Kidneys work to filter harmful fluids from the body, especially alcohol. Frequent and excessive alcohol intake strains the kidneys significantly.

Ibuprofen, similarly, affects kidney function by limiting the production of the cyclooxygenase (COX) enzyme to decrease inflammation and pain. This decrease of pressure affects the kidney’s filtering system temporarily. The more a person takes ibuprofen and alcohol together, the more damage there is to kidney function. Taking these together can eventually lead to kidney failure.

What Are the Dangers of Drinking and Taking Ibuprofen?

Drinking alcohol and taking ibuprofen can result in certain physical damages:

Gastrointestinal bleeding– Ibuprofen and alcohol can cause perforation in the stomach/intestines or gastrointestinal bleeding. These symptoms may occur without warning and can lead to sudden death if the bleeding is not detected and given proper medical attention.


Kidney damage– because both substances trigger stress on the kidneys, the risk of kidney damage is more significant when we take them simultaneously. Common signs of kidney damage are shortness of breath, tiredness, and swelling in the feet, hands, and ankles.


Cardiovascular diseases or stroke– since ibuprofen affects blood clotting, the cardiovascular system is influenced when we take the drug frequently. Consumption of alcohol also decreases healthy blood pressures among individuals with high blood pressure. Therefore the combination of the two substances can become deadly.


Excessive drowsiness- individually, both alcohol and ibuprofen can induce sleepiness. Combining the two can make a person drowsy, leading to extreme tiredness, decreased alertness, and the inability to function normally. Mixing alcohol and ibuprofen makes these symptoms worse, making driving or using any machinery very dangerous.

Which Pain Reliever Can You Take with Alcohol?

The risks of taking pain relievers with alcohol differ depending on the classification of that particular drug. Doctors do not advise the use of painkillers with alcohol because serious side effects can occur. However, minimal amounts are usually harmless.

The following are pain relievers that can be safe even with alcohol intake:

Ibuprofen– when sold as Motrin or Advil, ibuprofen poses little effects when ingested alongside alcohol, as long as we take it with precaution and following instructions from the manufacturer. Since the drug itself can already cause stomach irritation and gastrointestinal bleeding, short-term and minimal use is what most pharmacists recommend.


Naproxen sodium (Aleve) - Naproxen sodium, known as Aleve, is usually safe to ingest when drinking alcohol. But, like ibuprofen, naproxen sodium can cause stomach bleeding, and we should only use it for the shortest amount of time possible with small doses.

Not all over-the-counter painkillers are safe when simultaneously used with alcohol. Some can be deadly and have irreversible effects. The following are pain relievers you should NOT take with alcohol:

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) –commonly known as Tylenol, can result in liver damage when consumed frequently and in high amounts. With or without alcohol, acetaminophen use has been considered the number one cause of liver failure in the United States. Alcohol only worsens the effects of this drug. Do NOT take acetaminophen and alcohol together unless specifically prescribed by your doctor.


Aspirin – this drug can also cause stomach bleeding and becomes a higher risk when mixed with alcohol. A study in the 1990s showed that taking two aspirin tablets one hour before drinking caused alcohol levels to spike 30% percent higher than levels found from drinking alone. It is dangerous to mix alcohol and aspirin.


The best way to reduce having complications involving alcohol is to avoid it to begin. If you feel like a loved one is facing alcohol problems, addiction, or otherwise, it’s best to seek a professional opinion towards treating the underlying problem.


Here at Recovery Boulevard, we specialize in drug and alcohol rehab for patients struggling with their addiction. It’s never too late to change the path you are on. To learn more about our services, call us at 503-897-1916. Or visit us at our office on 1316 SE 12th Avenue Portland, OR 97214.


Disclaimer: This post serves a strictly educational use. It does not reflect the services, products, or therapeutic approaches of this establishment or its healthcare practitioners. This blog aims not to advertise the products, services, or therapeutic approaches of any other establishment associated with this site. On the subject of safe or legal services, products, and appropriate therapies, recommendations ought to be given by a qualified professional on a case-to-case basis.

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