If you've ever taken prescription painkillers, antidepressants or certain antibiotics, chances are you've seen that familiar warning label: "Do Not Drink Alcoholic Beverages When Taking This Medication." Many over-the-counter medicines, including antihistamines, decongestants and cough syrup, can also interact unfavorably with alcohol, although the warnings on these common household remedies are sometimes listed in the fine print, where they may be easily overlooked.
Prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone (better known by the brand names Percocet and Vicodin, respectively) can cause dizziness, drowsiness, impaired motor control and risk of overdose when taken with alcohol, as can prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids. Regular use of acetaminophen (Tylenol) in combination with alcohol has been associated with liver damage, and even plain old aspirin can lead to stomach upset, bleeding and ulcers. Antibiotics including Metronidazole (Flagyl) and Azithromycin (Zithromax) can cause nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, and liver damage if taken with alcohol, and certain antidepressants taken with alcohol can actually increase feelings of depression, as well as lead to high blood pressure, drowsiness and other symptoms [source: NIH].
The list of potential interactions is long, and it includes many more medications than we can possibly include here. When in doubt, always check with your doctor or pharmacist, or just play it safe and hold off on the drinks until you're sure the medicine is out of your system.