Is it safe to mix alcohol and antibiotics?

Q: I'm taking an antibiotic to get over an infection. Can I still enjoy my daily glass of wine?

A: It depends on the drug, but it’s a good idea to abstain until you’re finished taking the medication.

Certain antibiotics, including erythromycin, can increase the amount of alcohol that enters your bloodstream. They speed up digestion, which leaves less time for alcohol to be broken down in the stomach before it reaches the intestines and blood. And mixing alcohol with metronidazole (Flagyl and generic) or tinidazole (Tindamax) can cause vomiting and flushing. Alcohol generally doesn’t make antibiotics less effective, but it might slow your recovery. Finally, since alcohol and most antibiotics are processed by the liver, why not give that organ a break?

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A version of this article appeared in the September 2013 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

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