The subject of alcohol – drug interaction has generated many questions and concerns in the minds of people, as they want to know how safe it is to drink while taking their medications. A few antibiotics such as metronidazole (Flagyl) when taken with alcohol, have been noted to cause an uncomfortable myriad of symptoms ranging from lightheadedness to nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and hang-over like symptoms which are generally referred to as Disulfiram-like reactions.
In this article, we will consider the interactions that occur when Augmentin is taken alongside alcohol, whether it is safe or unsafe, and what symptoms might follow. First, let’s answer the questions – “Do both ‘drugs’ interact?” and “Is it okay to take alcohol while using Augmentin?”
Do Augmentin and Alcohol Interact?
Generally, drinking alcohol while taking drugs is not good for the body and it is better avoided.
While moderate consumption of alcohol may not affect the effectiveness of antibiotics like Augmentin and the patient information leaflets do not carry warnings about alcohol consumption, energy levels of individuals can however be reduced and may prolong the length of recovery time.
It is considered safer to avoid taking alcohol alongside an antibiotic like Augmentin. Here are a few reasons why.
Why Augmentin with Alcohol is Not Recommended
1. Decreased Absorption
Although it is believed that alcohol does not render Augmentin ineffective, it has the potential to decrease its absorption in the guts thereby affecting its overall effectiveness and efficiency. Aside from decreased absorption, alcohol can also elongate the body’s recovery process, thereby elongating the treatment time.
2. Reduced Enzyme Activity
In the body, there are enzymes which break down drugs and alcohol. Moderate to heavy consumption of alcohol can alter the activities of the liver and kidney enzymes and thus slows down the rate of Augmentin metabolism in the body.
3. Weakened Immune System
Alcohol intake can weaken the immune system and affect recovery from infections. This means that a person using antibiotics and taking alcohol may have to use the medication for a longer time. Alcohol can also reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs. In the long term, alcohol consumption can increase a person’s vulnerability to infectious diseases. The damage alcohol does to the immune system is proportional to the quantity consumed.
4. Increased Liver Damage
The major route of elimination for amoxicillin is via the kidney, whereas for clavulanic acid it is by both kidney and non-kidney dependent mechanisms. Alcohol is largely metabolized by the liver. Taking both together can affect how Augmentin is metabolized in the body. Hence, it affects drug efficacy and, as a whole, leads to reduced compliance and elongated treatment time. It is thus safer to avoid using both together.
5. Increased Side Effects
Augmentin and alcohol have similar side effects, and taking both together may worsen the side effects such as nausea (the feeling of wanting to vomit), vomiting, and headache.
Other side effects include
- Abdominal pain
- Flushed skin
- Chest pain due to difficulty in breathing
- Increased Heart rate
Meanwhile, taking Augmentin before meals reduces the likelihood of stomach upset or discomfort, and drinking plenty of water, juice or other fluids during the course of therapy would also help to prevent dehydration.
6. Quickened Intoxication
Yes, taking alcohol with Augmentin could make you feel drunk even faster. The science behind this is simple, one of the side effects of Augmentin medication is dehydration, which is worsened by alcohol consumption. Dehydration can make you consume more alcohol, increasing your chances of getting drunk.
Also, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant causing symptoms like poor coordination, dizziness, somnolence and when combined with antibiotics, this effect could be increased, leading to assumed quickened intoxication.
What is Augmentin Used For?
Augmentin is a broad spectrum antibiotic – that is, it is indicated in the treatment of a wide range of bacterial infections such as ear infections, tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils), sinusitis (inflammation of the nasal cavities), pneumonia, skin infections, bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchi), urinary tract infections, dental abscess (tooth infection), respiratory tract infections, gonorrhea and associated genital tract infections. It is also used as an adjunct (used alongside other medication) in the treatment of stomach ulcers.
How Does Augmentin Work?
It contains two active ingredients, Amoxicillin and Clavulanic acid, both of which work in synergy to help ward off bacteria in the body.
Amoxicillin stops the bacteria from multiplying by preventing the formation of their cell walls. The walls are necessary to protect bacteria from their environment and to help keep the contents of the bacteria cells together. Bacteria cannot survive without their cell wall. Imagine humans without their skin – exactly!
However, some bacterial cells have developed advanced mechanisms to protect themselves against the effect of Amoxicillin. The bacteria produce an enzyme called beta-lactamase, which breaks down Amoxicillin, making them resistant to the drug. This is where Clavulanic acid comes in.
Clavulanic acid binds with the beta-lactamase enzymes produced by the bacteria and prevents them from deactivating amoxicillin. This is why the amoxicillin-clavulanic acid combination is potent against a wide range of bacterial infections, including the ones that are usually resistant to amoxicillin alone.
How is Augmentin Used?
Augmentin comes in oral dosage forms as tablets, and powder for making suspensions. It is also available in injectable forms for people who are not able to take tablets or suspensions. It is usually administered as twice-daily dosing at evenly spaced intervals and the dose prescribed is dependent on the infection being treated.
The dose of Augmentin prescribed for a patient is usually dependent on a number of factors such as the severity and site of the infection, the age, weight, and kidney function of the patient.
Although the maximum daily dose of Amoxicillin is 4000mg per day, it is recommended that when targeting high dose a maximum daily dose of 80-90mg/kg/day in divided doses be used.
A dose of 20 to 45mg per kg is recommended for children. Children who weigh more than 40kg should receive adult dosing.
Treatment with Augmentin should not exceed 14 days without review.
There are reasons to believe that taking alcohol along with Augmentin medication may affect the body’s ability to fight the infection, prolong treatment time, and worsen some side effects. The duration of therapy of Augmentin is usually between 5 to 7 days, and it is eliminated completely from the system in about 25 hours.
Hence, staying off alcohol for a week is a sacrifice that would be worth it in the long run. It is also important to avoid using this medication except it is prescribed by a doctor.