Although no drug interactions exist between Valtrex and alcohol, you may still want to avoid drinking until your infection clears up.

If you have been prescribed valacyclovir (Valtrex) for a herpes, shingles or cold sore infection, you may have questions about the drug. For example, you may wonder if it’s safe to drink alcohol while taking the medication. While there are no drug interactions between Valtrex and alcohol, there are still factors to consider before having a drink.

Article at a Glance:

Valacyclovir (Valtrex) is a common medication for herpes viruses like genital herpes, cold sores and shingles.

No drug interactions exist between Valtrex and alcohol.

Alcohol can negatively impact your immune system, which may make your infection harder to clear up.

Drinking and Valtrex share some side effects, which may worsen if you combine the substances.

Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Valtrex?

You can drink alcohol while taking Valtrex as long as your doctor says it is safe. Although there are no drug interactions between alcohol and Valtrex, other factors to consider include possibly worsening the side effects when combining them and drinking’s negative impact on the immune system.

What Is Valtrex (valacyclovir)?

Valtrex is the brand name of the generic drug valacyclovir. Valtrex is an antiviral drug taken by mouth to treat herpes viruses, including shingles, genital herpes and cold sores. Some characteristics of Valtrex include:

Brand NameValtrex
Conditions it can treatHerpes zoster (shingles), herpes simplex (cold sores or genital herpes), chickenpox, Bell palsy, cytomegalovirus
Drug typeAntivirals
Controlled substance statusNot controlled
Side effectsHeadache, abdominal pain, nausea, lab abnormalities, the common cold
How long it takes to have its peak effectWithin 1.5 hours in adults and 2.6 hours in children
Doses required to treat the infection1–10 days’ worth, depending on the underlying infection. When taken for infection prevention, it may be used indefinitely.

Valtrex (valacyclovir) & Alcohol Side Effects

Valtrex and alcohol share some common side effects. This is one of the big concerns about combining the two substances, as the side effects of one may worsen the side effects of the other.

Nausea is common after drinking too much. This is also a common Valtrex side effect, experienced by approximately 15%of people on the drug.

Headaches are also a common hangover symptom. Further, alcohol can trigger migraines. Headache is by far the most common side effect of Valtrex, impacting up to 38% of people. 

What Are the Risks of Drinking on Valtrex?

Although no drug interactions exist between alcohol and Valtrex, it is still best to avoid alcohol while taking the medication. Alcohol can impair your immune system, making your infection harder to treat. Further, both drinking and Valtrex can cause nausea, potentially worsening that side effect.

Lastly, if you are prescribed multiple doses of Valtrex for your condition, drinking too much may make you less likely to remember to take your next dose on time. This can interfere with your healing and make your infection harder to treat.

Taking Valtrex for Shingles

If you’re taking Valtrex to treat shingles, you may want to consider avoiding alcohol altogether. This is because alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of your immune system. Valtrex helps your immune system fight shingles, so you are making the drug’s job harder by drinking.

Taking Valtrex After Alcohol 

Because there are no drug interactions between Valtrex and alcohol, taking your Valtrex dose after drinking is generally safe. Even if you have been drinking, it is important to take your Valtrex dose on time unless otherwise instructed by your doctor. Delaying your Valtrex dose may cause your infection to worsen, which can make it harder to clear up. 

Drinking After Taking Valtrex

Due to possible additive side effects and a negative impact on your immune system, it is best to wait until your infection clears up before drinking. That said, there are no interactions between alcohol and Valtrex, so drinking after taking a dose of the medication is generally safe. 

Can You Overdose on Alcohol & Valtrex?

You can overdose on both alcohol and Valtrex. However, drinking will not directly cause a Valtrex overdose nor vice versa.

It is possible, although rare, to take too much Valtrex. Overdoses of up to 20 grams have been linked to the development of temporary neurological issues, including mental status changes, seizures and hallucinations.

Alcohol poisoning is unfortunately common with excessive alcohol intake. On average, six Americans die every day from alcohol toxicity. If you’re struggling with your drinking habits, addiction treatment can help you live a healthier, alcohol-free life. Contact us today to discuss treatment that can start you on the road to long-term recovery.

What is Valtrex used for?

Valtrex is used to treat viral infections, including herpes zoster (shingles), herpes simplex (cold sores or genital herpes), chickenpox and cytomegalovirus. It is also used to treat Bell palsy.

How does Valtrex work?

Valtrex interferes with the virus’s ability to use DNA to copy itself. Without being able to reproduce, the virus cannot continue to cause a flare.

Can you take Valtrex when pregnant?

Valtrex is commonly used in pregnant women. However, as with any medication, you should make sure your doctor is aware you are pregnant before taking the medication.

How long does it take Valtrex to work?

Valtrex begins to work quickly and achieves its peak effect within 1.5 hours in adults and 2.6 hours in children.

Is Valtrex addictive?

Valtrex is not addictive and is not a controlled substance.

What drugs interact with Valtrex?

Valtrex has several drug interactions, including with cladribine, clozapine, foscarnet, mycophenolate, talimogene, tenofovir, theophylline, tizanidine and zidovudine.

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Sources “Valacyclovir.” August 20, 2020. Accessed July 2, 2021. “Drug Interaction Report.” Accessed July 2, 2021.

Sarkar, Dipak; Jung, M. Katherine; Wang, H. Joe. “Alcohol and the Immune System.” Alcohol Research Current Reviews, 2015. Accessed July 2, 2021.

Huguenel, Colin; Felton, Diana; Bruccoleri, Rebecca; Salhanick, Steven. “Case Files of the Harvard Medical Toxico[…]intentional Overdose.” Journal of Medical Toxicology, December 25, 2014. Accessed July 2, 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Alcohol Poisoning Deaths.” January 6, 2015. Accessed July 2, 2021.

Mathew, Paul G. “Alcohol and Headaches.” Harvard Medical School, October 26, 2018. Accessed July 2, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.