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Mixing Alcohol And Ibuprofen | Risks & Safety

Published on July 19, 2021
Mixing Ibuprofen & Alcohol | Risks & Safety

Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that treats mild to severe pain. 

It’s available over-the-counter to reduce muscle inflammation and minor aches and pains such as headaches or fever. It may also be prescribed in a combination drug to treat arthritic swelling and stiffness. 

Some brand names for ibuprofen are Motrin, Advil, and Vicoprofen.

Mixing a dose of ibuprofen and a small amount of alcohol isn’t likely to be harmful. But both substances can affect various parts of the body, and you shouldn’t use either in excess.

Risks Of Mixing Ibuprofen & Alcohol

Mixing ibuprofen with alcohol can be dangerous if you drink heavily or take ibuprofen regularly or in high doses. Ibuprofen can intensify the irritating effects of alcohol in the stomach and kidneys, which can lead to peptic ulcers (sores in the stomach lining) and kidney damage.

Combining alcohol and ibuprofen can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, which may appear as:

  • heartburn
  • stomach pain
  • bloody vomit (or vomit that looks like coffee grounds)
  • blood in your stool
  • stool that is black or tarry

Alcohol can worsen the side effects of ibuprofen, which include:

  • constipation or diarrhea
  • bloating or gas
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • trouble breathing
  • swelling or stiffness
  • headache or back pain
  • rapid heart rate
  • blurred vision
  • painful urination
  • blisters, rashes, or hives

The more of each substance that’s in your body, the more likely you are to experience serious side effects.

Can You Take Ibuprofen For A Hangover?

Some people take ibuprofen to relieve hangover symptoms—such as a headache—the day after drinking heavily. There may still be alcohol in your system if you feel hungover, so taking ibuprofen might not be the safest option. 

Taking Ibuprofen Safely

Ibuprofen is meant to be taken for occasional or short-term pain relief. It’s rarely prescribed for chronic pain. To take ibuprofen safely, use the lowest possible dose and do not take it more frequently than advised. 

Avoid alcohol while taking ibuprofen, and don’t take ibuprofen if you’ve already been drinking.

Since ibuprofen can upset your stomach, it’s best to take it with food. Taking it on an empty stomach can cause more irritation and may make you feel nauseous.

Other Options For Pain Relief

Aspirin (Bayer) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) are over-the-counter painkillers that work similarly to ibuprofen. These drugs are also NSAIDs, so they carry many of the same risks.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is in a different drug class called analgesics. It’s a pain reliever but not an anti-inflammatory drug. It may be even worse than ibuprofen to take while drinking because it can cause liver damage, and your liver takes quite a beating from alcohol too.

Alternative pain relief is the best option when alcohol is involved. This could mean:

  • meditation for relaxation
  • massaging the source of pain
  • ice or heat on the painful area
  • topical creams that target the soreness

Exercise can help with pain as well. It loosens your muscles and joints and gets your blood flowing. It’s also been proven to reduce stress, which is the root cause of some types of pain.

Ibuprofen & Alcohol Abuse

NSAIDs like ibuprofen can cause internal bleeding and holes in the stomach lining or intestines. Long-term use of ibuprofen and heavy alcohol consumption (three drinks or more per day) increases the risk of severe gastrointestinal issues.

A moderate amount of alcohol is defined as one drink in a day for women or two drinks in a day for men. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a “drink” is:

  • 12 ounces of beer (5 percent alcohol)
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor (7 percent alcohol)
  • 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol)
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor (40 percent alcohol)

If you regularly drink more than this, you may have a problem with alcohol abuse. That can make it difficult to take ibuprofen safely. 

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes the body remove water. It can cause dehydration, which increases inflammation, making it more likely that you’ll have pain, swelling, or stiffness that an NSAID like ibuprofen can treat. 

But ibuprofen is less effective when taken with alcohol, and the complications of using both can cause more harm than good.

Treating Alcohol Addiction

Heavy drinking can have many adverse effects on your health, even when you’re not taking ibuprofen. Long-term alcohol abuse is linked to:

  • heart disease
  • liver disease
  • kidney disease
  • some cancers
  • mental health issues (anxiety, depression)
  • memory problems
  • learning difficulties
  • a weak immune system

Alcohol addiction is marked by a loss of control over drinking despite visible negative consequences. In addition to health problems, addiction may contribute to social issues such as broken relationships and job loss. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, we can help. To learn about our addiction treatment programs, please connect with us today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Alcohol Use and Your Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Hangovers
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Mixing Alcohol with Medicines
U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Ibuprofen

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