Many medications cannot be combined with alcohol and may cause serious side effects when taken at the same time as alcohol. Ibuprofen (also called by its brand-name Motrin) is one of these medications.

Ibuprofen is an over-the-counter medication that belongs to a class of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and is typically used to treat mild pain or inflammation. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism warns that taking ibuprofen and alcohol around the same time can lead to several adverse health effects.

Side Effects of Mixing Ibuprofen and Alcohol

Several risks can occur when ibuprofen and alcohol are taken around the same time. These risks are lower when smaller amounts of alcohol are used but are still a factor. The more alcohol that is used with ibuprofen, the more likely it is that severe side effects will occur.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, some of the risks of mixing alcohol and ibuprofen include:

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding: A possible side effect of long-term ibuprofen use or overuse is bleeding within the stomach or intestines. When ibuprofen is mixed with alcohol, the risk of internal bleeding increases. Anyone who is vomiting or defecating blood and believes they may be experiencing internal bleeding should immediately seek medical help.
  • Kidney damage: Ibuprofen can stress the kidneys but is not likely to cause long-term damage. When mixed with alcohol, however, the damaging effects of ibuprofen on the kidneys increase. Coupled with the dehydration often experienced with excessive alcohol use, ibuprofen can lead to kidney damage. Over a long time, ibuprofen and alcohol use can lead to severe kidney problems and may cause serious long-term health problems.
  • Impaired responsiveness: Ibuprofen can lead some people to feel drowsy, typically from the relaxation that occurs with the decrease in pain levels. Alcohol also leads to decreased alertness. When these two substances are combined, it can lead to increased drowsiness and decreased alertness. This decreased alertness can increase the probability of injury and may cause dangerous situations if someone decides to drive, as the drowsiness may be present, even if their alcohol levels show they are safe to drive.
  • Fast heart rate: Some studies indicate that taking alcohol and ibuprofen at the same time can lead to an increased heart rate. A fast heart rate can cause minor side effects like dizziness and may lead to more serious medical problems if there is any underlying heart or lung condition.
  • Increased risks for older adults: As people age, their bodies are unable to break down alcohol as effectively as when they’re young. Smaller amounts of alcohol at an old age can cause greater interactions with ibuprofen, leading to increased risks and dangers.

Key Points: Ibuprofen and Alcohol

There are several important points to remember about taking ibuprofen and alcohol together, including:

  • While people may think that it is safe to drink while taking ibuprofen, any use of alcohol or ibuprofen while the other may be in the bloodstream can lead to these dangerous complications.
  • Taking alcohol and ibuprofen at the same time can lead to several dangerous side effects, especially for older adults, people who drink alcohol more than once a week while taking ibuprofen, or people who take ibuprofen for more than two days in a row while using any alcohol.
  • Possible dangerous side effects of mixing ibuprofen and alcohol include:
  • Internal bleeding
  • Kidney damage
  • Impaired responsiveness
  • Increased heart rate

If you are taking ibuprofen and alcohol within the same 24 hour period, you should consider discussing with your doctor the dangers of mixing these two substances.

If you find it difficult to limit your alcohol intake, or not to use alcohol even when it may be dangerous to your health, you may benefit from reaching out to one of the understanding professionals at The Recovery Village to see what resources are available to help those who struggle with alcohol misuse.

    

Wiegand, Timothy J. “Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug (NSAID) Toxicity.” Medscape. Dec. 2017. Accessed April 2, 2019.

Ananad, B. S. “Peptic Ulcer Disease.” Medscape. Dec. 2018. Accessed April 2, 2019.

Carter, Alan. “Mixing ibuprofen and alcohol.” Medical News Today. March 2019. Accessed April 2, 2019.

NIH.gov. “Harmful Interactions.” 2014. Accessed April 2, 2019.