When Can I Drink Alcohol After Taking Penicillin?
Alcohol consumption while taking medication, especially antibiotics, often brings concerns from patients and healthcare professionals alike. Alcohol can interact with medication in a variety of ways and can weaken the immune system. See below for our latest question and answer regarding alcohol consumption while taking the antibiotic penicillin.
When can I drink alcohol after taking penicillin?
There is no drug interaction between penicillin and alcohol, but it generally is not recommended to drink alcohol while recovering from an infection.
Alcohol can decrease immune function and worsen antibiotic side effects such as:
- Upset stomach
While recovering from an infection, it is important to stay well hydrated and get plenty of rest.
How long penicillin lasts in the body varies considerably by individual. According to the prescribing information for penicillin, the half-life (i.e. time it takes for 50% of a drug to be metabolized) is around 45 minutes in healthy individuals. The half-life increases greatly in those with kidney or liver impairment and has been reported to be over 30 hours in patients with severe kidney impairment.
Based on the half-life statistics, penicillin will be cleared from the body within 12 hours for most healthy individuals. In those with kidney or liver impairment, it may take several days to be cleared.
If you wish to completely avoid alcohol while penicillin is present in your body, waiting at least 12 hours after your last dose of penicillin to drink alcohol is recommended and will reduce the risk of worsened side effects. If you have kidney or liver impairment, it would be prudent to wait longer.
Information About Alcohol
Alcohol is primarily metabolized via alcohol dehydrogenase, aldehyde dehydrogenase, cytochrome P450 (CYP2E1), and catalase. The byproducts of alcohol include acetaldehyde and acetate and contribute to many of the negative effects.
Genetic variation of these enzymes causes varying degrees of alcohol metabolism—which is why everyone tolerates alcohol differently. This metabolism takes place mostly in the liver. CYP enzymes play a particularly important role in drug metabolism and drug interactions occur via the inhibition or induction of these enzymes. Alcohol does impact CYP enzymes, especially CYP2E1.
Information About Penicillin
Penicillin is a beta-lactam antibiotic that is used for treatment of respiratory, skin, cardiac, and ear infections, among others. Any antibiotics in the penicillin class should be avoided in patients with a true penicillin allergy.
Reported allergies to penicillins are thought to be higher than the rate of true penicillin allergies. It is important to let your doctor and pharmacist know your allergies or other adverse reactions before taking any medication.
Only about 25% of penicillin is absorbed in the GI tract and is excreted primarily through the kidney. It is not extensively metabolized by CYP enzymes so will not impact metabolism of alcohol. Penicillin can cause rash, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
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