Alcohol can create uncomfortable and dangerous side effects when combined with prescription and over-the-counter medications. One commonly used medication that may interact negatively with alcohol is aspirin. Aspirin belongs to a class of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (also called NSAIDs). These drugs decrease inflammation and pain. Aspirin also slows the blood clotting process and can be used to help prevent blood clots.
While some over-the-counter medications can be taken with alcohol, aspirin can create several negative and potentially life-threatening side effects when mixed with alcohol. The side effects of alcohol and aspirin are mainly related to the similar effects that both have on the liver, stomach, and intestines.
Side Effects of Mixing Aspirin and Alcohol
Several side effects can result from mixing alcohol and aspirin. Alcohol on its own affects the liver negatively and increases the risk of several kinds of liver disease. Aspirin on its own can cause liver damage, especially in higher amounts, and may also lead to an increased risk of bleeding.
When alcohol and aspirin are combined, the resulting side effects include:
- Increased toxicity of both aspirin and alcohol
- Increased risk of bleeding in the stomach and intestines
- Increased risk of liver damage
- Risk of alcohol addiction (especially with excessive alcohol use)
These side effects can be dangerous and, in the wrong set of circumstances, can be deadly.
Increased Toxicity of Alcohol and Aspirin
The liver is the organ that processes ingested substances and plays a significant role in processing both alcohol and aspirin. When both substances are used together, the liver can’t handle as much of both of them as it would be able to process if only one were used. Because of this factor, when alcohol and aspirin are used together, the amount of each substance that ends up in the blood is higher than it would be if only one were used.
The decreased ability of the liver to process alcohol and aspirin together causes a normal dose of aspirin to create increased side effects and increase the risk of toxicity, which can also lead to:
- More alcohol from each drink ending up in the bloodstream
- Increasing the risk of an overdose or of being impaired (from what would normally be expected)
- Problems when driving, as the blood alcohol content will be higher from the same number of drinks
Increased Risk of Internal Bleeding
One of the possible side effects of aspirin use is the risk of bleeding in the stomach or intestines. Using alcohol and aspirin together increases this risk of bleeding. This internal bleeding could be so small that it is not possible to initially tell, but it can become life-threatening in some cases.
Increased Risk of Liver Damage
Alcohol and aspirin both stress the liver and can cause liver damage individually. It is logical, then, that mixing alcohol and aspirin increases the risk of liver damage. When these two substances are used together over a prolonged period this damage may become permanent and can lead to other complications, or even death.
Key Points: Aspirin and Alcohol
Several adverse side effects can occur from mixing alcohol and aspirin. These side effects include:
- Bleeding in the stomach or intestines
- Liver toxicity and damage
- Increased intoxication from alcohol
- Risk of alcohol addiction with excessive alcohol use
- Increased aspirin in the body from the same dose
It may not be dangerous for some people to use small amounts of alcohol and aspirin together infrequently. However, if you are considering taking aspirin while drinking alcohol, you should first discuss the possible risks and side effects with your physician to see what is safe for your circumstances.
If you or a loved one are struggling with an alcohol addiction or are using alcohol with other medications, even when you know it could be unsafe, then you should consider seeking professional help. The Recovery Village has helped many people overcome alcohol addiction and can connect you to the help that you need. Contact one of our team members today to learn more about how you can start on the journey to recovery.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Harmful Interactions.” 2014. Accessed April 24, 2019.
Medscape. “Aspirin (Rx, OTC).” June 2018. Accessed April 24, 2019.
Roine, Risto et al. “Aspirin Increases Blood Alcohol Concentrations in Humans After Ingestion of Alcohol.” Journal of the American Medical Association, November 1990. Accessed April 24, 2019.