Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol While Taking Blood Pressure Medication?

We've all seen the warnings on prescription drug labels not to drink alcohol while taking certain medications. But how seriously should we be taking them? With so many drug interactions, it might seem impossible to avoid them. However, doing so could be more important than you think.

Over 70% of adults in the U.S. drink alcohol, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In the NIH National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) which surveyed 26,000 Americans and spanned from 1999 to 2010, it was found that 42% of these adults also take medications known to interact adversely with alcohol. In fact, nearly half of all the prescription drugs in the NHANES database had interactions with alcohol.

"Our findings show that a substantial percentage of people who drink regularly, particularly older adults, could be at risk of harmful alcohol and medication interactions," said Dr. Rosalind Breslow, who led the team of researchers.

One of the main types of drugs that are classified as interacting with alcohol are blood pressure medications.

How does alcohol interact with blood pressure medications?

Certain blood pressure medications, such as Lotensin and Norvasc, can adversely affect your health when combined with alcohol consumption, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Possible reactions can include dizziness, fainting, drowsiness, and heart problems such as arrhythmia.

In certain blood pressure medications like beta blockers, consuming alcohol while taking them can be especially dangerous (via Healthline). This medication lowers blood pressure by slowing the heart down and reducing the strength of the heartbeat. Since alcohol can also lower blood pressure, combining these two could lead to hypotension, or low blood pressure. The blood pressure dropping too much can lead to the previously-mentioned reactions.

While some think that blood pressure medication is safe to combine with alcohol when consumed in moderation, it's worth talking to your doctor first (via "Combining alcohol with medications often carries the potential for serious health risks," said NIAAA director Dr. George Koob. "Based on this study, many individuals may be mixing alcohol with interactive medications and they should be aware of the possible harms."