Flagyl is a strong antibiotic that is also known as metronidazole. You may have recently been prescribed this medication to treat conditions like a sexually transmitted infection or bacterial infections in the abdomen, skin, heart lining, bones, joints or other areas of the body. When a physician prescribes this medication, he or she generally will strongly caution against consuming alcohol while taking Flagyl. In addition, the prescription bottle may have a special warning label that delivers similar instructions. Consuming a combination of metronidazole and alcohol can have uncomfortable and even serious side effects.
Flagyl and Alcohol
If you are like many other people, you have taken antibiotics many times previously in your life to fight various types of infections and illnesses. While you were on these other antibiotics, you may have been able to consume an alcoholic beverage from time to time without an issue. This is because many types of antibiotics do not have strong interactions with a moderate amount of alcohol. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Flagyl and alcohol.
Antibiotics work in different ways in the body, and alcohol consumption can interact with the metabolism of some antibiotics. Alcohol breaks down in the human body through a two-step process. First, the alcohol is converted into acetaldehyde. This is a toxic compound that can create a variety of undesired effects in the body. Toxic acetaldehyde is then broken down into acetate through aldehyde dehydrogenase, a special enzyme produced in the body. This important step prevents toxic acetaldehyde from accumulating in large quantities in the blood.
Flagyl, however, prevents the production of the aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme. Because this enzyme is not produced by the body when you are taking Flagyl, toxicity in the blood builds up. This is the cause of the many uncomfortable and dangerous side effects that you may experience if you consume alcohol while Flagyl is in your system. With a closer look at these side effects, it will be clear why you should not mix these substances.
Side Effects of Mixing Flagyl and Alcohol
Individuals who seek medical treatment for alcoholism may be prescribed disulfiram. This medication produces a variety of health effects that ultimately reduce the positive feelings that come from alcohol consumption. To do so, disulfiram creates a variety of unpleasant effects in the body that deter the individual from future alcohol consumption. Disulfiram blocks the aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme’s production in the same way Flagyl does. Because of this taking Flagyl with alcohol will cause a disulfiram-like reaction with a wide variety of mild to moderate symptoms.
It is important to note that the disulfiram-like reaction does not occur in all individuals. However, it can be severe in others. In fact, a 31-year-old woman died from a Flagyl and alcohol reaction in 1996. Some of the moderate symptoms that you could experience by consuming metronidazole with alcohol include facial flushing, a rapid heartbeat, nausea and vomiting, a headache, and low blood pressure. More serious side effects can include numbness or tingling in appendages, difficulty walking, a skin reaction, or seizures.
Some patients with skin infections or sexually transmitted infections may be prescribed Flagyl in a topical form. The medication is available as a lotion, a cream, and a gel. Because it is unclear if topical versions of the medication can cause disulfiram-like side effects, patients should avoid consuming alcohol while using any Flagyl. If you have questions about the potential for interaction, you should ask your pharmacist or physician.
Some people wonder if it is safe to have only a drink or two while taking metronidazole. Many studies have been conducted over the years on both oral and topical uses of Flagyl to determine if there is a safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed. Unfortunately, Flagyl appears to affect people in different ways, and there is a risk of unpleasant or even serious effects when mixing any amount of alcohol with this medication. Because of this, alcohol use with Flagyl is contradicted in all forms and amounts.
In addition, some people may be more likely to experience adverse effects from mixing Flagyl and alcohol. For example, those who are 65 years old or older may feel more of the effects of alcohol use. Women biologically carry less water in the body, so they may accumulate a higher blood alcohol volume faster than men do. In addition, individuals with liver disorders may not be able to metabolize the alcohol as quickly or as well. All of these individuals may be more disposed to experience stronger side effects.
How Long Should You Wait Before Drinking Again?
After your infection clears with Flagyl treatment, you understandably may be ready to resume your normal lifestyle. You should continue taking the full course of the antibiotic even after you feel better. This can prevent the infection from returning. Even after you stop taking the antibiotic, however, you are still not clear to drink alcohol. This is because metronidazole may remain in your bloodstream for up to three days after the last dose. This is how long the body takes to fully metabolize and clear the antibiotic from your system. During this period of time, the antibiotic will continue to disrupt the production of the aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme. As a result, blood toxicity can increase if you consume alcohol too soon after finishing a round of Flagyl. If you have been prescribed topical Flagyl, you should wait at least 24 hours before drinking alcohol again.
Keep in mind that some people may need to wait longer. For example, if you have liver disease, your body may not clear Flagyl from your system full within three days. Other medications, such as Tagamet, can also impact how quickly the antibiotic may be fully removed from the bloodstream. If you have liver disease or if you take other medications, you should consult with your physician before you drink alcohol again.
Taking the Next Step
For many types of infections, Flagyl treatment will last for seven to 10 days. In the case of joint infections, bone infections and some other issues, the treatment may need to be continued for a longer period of time. While some people may not find it difficult to avoid alcohol consumption while being treated with metronidazole, the treatment time can seem unbearable for others.
Alcohol abuse impacts millions of people in the United States alone. In fact, almost 141,000 Americans die from alcohol-related effects annually, and many others seek medical treatment for related effects. There are many signs that may indicate alcohol abuse or addiction. One of these signs is the inability to control alcohol consumption. This includes, but is not limited to, managing consumption when presented with possible complications or issues. Another sign is experiencing withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop drinking alcohol. Such symptoms may range from uncontrollable shaking and nausea to anxiety, a fast heart rate, insomnia, sweating and more. If you are struggling to complete a round of Flagyl treatment because of these symptoms or you feel compelled to have a drink despite knowing the risks, you may benefit from seeking alcohol abuse treatment.
Do You Have an Issue with Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol abuse and addiction can impact many aspects of your life. In addition to preventing you from safely completing the antibiotic treatment that you need, it can be detrimental to your career, your personal relationships, your health, and more. At Long Island Interventions, we understand how challenging it can be to seek assistance for addiction, and we are here to help. The first step is to contact Long Island Interventions for a consultation. At that time, we can answer your questions about the treatment process and create a treatment plan that is tailored to fit your situation and needs. To explore your treatment options, reach out to us today.