There is a new batch of health advice, distilled by scientists in the laboratory, and it has to do with alcohol. The vast majority of us like to unwind with our drink of choice, and health news around red wine and the like is forever in the media. But for a moment let’s get serious and shed light on an area that should not go ignored. Are you taking prescription medication? Alcohol may be doing something you hadn’t considered.
We’ve found out there is another reason to avoid drinking alcohol while taking certain drugs. That is, besides possible liver damage, stomach bleeding, and a host of other possible side effects. Reported in the journal “Molecular Pharmaceutics,” the study found that alcohol made several medications up to three times more available to the body. What does that mean? Triple the intended dosage. And when these drugs are performing serious actions in the body, this can be a serious unintended consequence of a half-liter of wine.
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The researchers explained that beverage alcohol — known as ethanol — can cause an increase in the amount of non-prescription and prescription drugs that are “available” to the body after taking a specific dose. Alcohol can change how enzymes and other substances in the body interact with many of the 5,000 such medications on the market.
Some of these drugs don’t dissolve well in the gastrointestinal tract. That is especially true for the stomach and intestines. So, the researchers sought to test whether ethanol made these drugs dissolve more easily. If so, this would make the drugs more available in the body — possibly intensifying their effects when combined with alcohol.
To test out this idea, they used a simulated environment of the small intestine to test how rapidly medications dissolved when alcohol was present and when it wasn’t. The results: nearly 60% of the 22 medications tested dissolved much faster in the presence of alcohol.
Also, they found that certain types of substances, such as those that were acidic, were more affected. And acidic drugs are very common, including the blood-thinner warfarin, the pain and inflammation fighter naproxen, and the cancer drug tamoxifen.
This is important as a reminder that taking prescription drugs requires some consideration about the other things in your life. It’s easy to look at the miniscule pill and forget how powerful it can be inside your body. Just be careful. Speak to your doctor with any concerns.