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- Mixing ibuprofen with alcohol can cause nausea and stomach ulcers.
- It can also increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
- People most at risk of these nasty side effects are those who mix the two regularly.
Ibuprofen is a common pain reliever used for everything from headaches to strained muscles. While it might seem like a good idea to relieve pain with ibuprofen and relax with a glass of wine or a cold beer, it's best to keep alcohol and ibuprofen separate.
"Taking occasional ibuprofen to relieve pain with a small amount of alcohol on a full stomach, isn't likely to cause any problems," says Giulia Guerrini, a pharmacist at Medino. "But I wouldn't advise anyone to drink any more than a small glass of wine when taking ibuprofen."
That's because mixing ibuprofen and alcohol can increase your risk for side effects like an upset stomach or drowsiness. The risk is highest for people who have underlying medical conditions like liver or kidney disease, says Dr. Mark Conroy, a professor of emergency medicine with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Here's more on what may happen if you mix ibuprofen and alcohol and how long you should wait to safely take one after the other.
5 effects of mixing ibuprofen and alcohol
Still, having both substances in your system can increase your risk for certain side effects, including:
1. Stomach upset
2. Stomach ulcers
Ibuprofen and other NSAID medications can increase the risk for stomach ulcers and stomach bleeding. The risk of this is higher for people who have at least three drinks a day.
If you drink daily and are taking NSAIDs, it's likely both substances are in your system at the same time, which may increase the risk for stomach ulcers.
Alcohol can cause drowsiness and, in rare cases, ibuprofen can too.
"When taking both at the same time it is possible that the drowsiness would be worse," says Conroy. "This can lead, for example, to difficulty with concentration and balance."
4. Heart attack and stroke
People who take ibuprofen and other NSAIDs regularly are more likely to experience heart attack and stroke, compared with people who don't take these medications.
The risk is even greater for people who drink more than three drinks a day while also taking ibuprofen.
5. Kidney dysfunction
Ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs, reduce the production of prostaglandins, which help control blood flow to the kidney. As a result, there's a decrease in blood flow to the kidneys, which can affect how they filter out other substances, including alcohol.
"This is not likely to affect people who don't have any kidney issues, but if you suffer from any kidney disease you should certainly avoid ibuprofen, alcohol, and of course the combination of the two," she says.
Some common kidney conditions to consider include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Fabry disease
- Polycystic kidney disease
Who is most at risk
People who drink heavily or who take ibuprofen frequently are at increased risk for negative interactions between the two, says Conroy.
Certain populations are especially at risk, says Robinson, including:
- People with chronic pain, who are more likely to take high doses of ibuprofen.
- People with substance use disorder or mental health conditions, who may have higher alcohol intake.
- Teens, who often binge drink.
- People with cognitive impairments including dementia, who may not understand proper dosing.
- People with kidney or liver disease.
How long after drinking alcohol can I take ibuprofen?
Alcohol can stay in your system for about 25 hours. Because of that, Guerrini recommends waiting at least 24 hours after drinking before you take ibuprofen.
However, if you binge drink often or have a condition like liver disease that causes you to process alcohol more slowly, alcohol can stay in your system even longer.
Moreover, women and people over the age of 65 metabolize alcohol more slowly, so it will stay in their system for longer.
So, it's best to talk to your doctor about your specific situation and how soon after drinking it would be safe to take ibuprofen.
How long after taking ibuprofen can I drink alcohol?
The pain relief from ibuprofen only lasts 4-6 hours. However, its half-life is 1.8-2 hours, meaning it will take your body roughly 10 hours to break the drug down to a miniscule amount. During that time, you should avoid alcohol.
"You don't want to risk any gastrointestinal distress or other issues, so it's best to let your body remove the ibuprofen from your system entirely before having a few drinks," says Guerrini.
Other drug interactions
Ibuprofen has some serious drug interactions.
You should talk with your doctor before taking ibuprofen if you're also taking:
- Warfarin: If you take this blood thinner and ibuprofen you're at high risk for bleeding. These medications should never be taken together.
- Clopidogrel: This moderately increases bleeding risk.
- Oral steroids: This may increase risk for bleeding, gastritis, or ulcers.
In addition to the above serious interactions, ibuprofen can cause negative side effects if it's taken with any of more than 300 medications.
Always talk to your doctor about any other medications or supplements you're taking, and how they could interact with ibuprofen.
If you're a healthy person who accidentally mixes ibuprofen and alcohol, you'll likely be fine.
That said: "It's always best to avoid the combination of ibuprofen and alcohol if possible," says Guerrini.
Moreover, mixing the substances can increase your risk for side effects ranging from an upset stomach to dizziness to gastrointestinal bleeding.
"These risks can be higher depending on how much you consume and how long you are taking them together," says Robinson.
If you have other health considerations, like liver or kidney disease or substance abuse disorder you're at a greater risk for adverse side effects.