Ask A Pharmacist: Alcohol and Medications

By Jennifer Cocohoba, PharmD, AAHIVE

People living with HIV—in addition to people taking medication for other conditions—may wonder how alcohol affects their health and how it might interact with their medications. Here, I’ll highlight some things to look out for if you’re taking medications and plan on drinking, so that you can raise your glass in celebration with friends, family, and loved ones without worry.

About half of American adults report drinking on a regular basis—which we know can be beneficial if it’s done in moderation. Observational studies have pointed to benefits such as lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and better brain functioning in later years. On the other hand, excessive drinking increases risk of liver disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and many other health conditions.

For most people, having some alcohol is usually okay, but heavy drinking can be harmful. And we define heavy drinking as, for women, having three or more drinks per day, or more than seven drinks per week. For men, heavy drinking means having four or more drinks per day or more than 14 drinks per week. Binge drinking—when a larger quantity of alcohol is consumed in a short period of time—can also be harmful.

But what about drinking when you’re taking medications? Is moderation still the key?

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