Ibuprofen -containing medications are associated with some potentially serious side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding and liver problems. The risk can be further increased if you drink alcohol while taking ibuprofen.
Ibuprofen belongs to a class of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) , which are used primarily to relieve inflammation and pain. Ibuprofen can also help lower fever and relieve minor aches and pains caused by arthritis, menstrual periods, toothaches, backaches, and colds .
Ibuprofen is generally sold over the counter under the generic name ibuprofen or under brand names such as:
Ibuprofen can also be found in prescription medications such as Duexis ( famotidine / ibuprofen), which are used to relieve arthritis pain without indigestion .
When used directly, ibuprofen is generally safe, although not for everyone. People with peptic ulcers should avoid ibuprofen .
Similarly, those who might otherwise tolerate ibuprofen may experience side effects or complications if alcohol is added to the mix.
Ibuprofen can irritate the digestive tract and should always be taken with meals. Like other NSAIDs, ibuprofen is associated with the risk of developing peptic ulcer, especially with overuse. This can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding or perforation , sometimes severe.
Symptoms of severe gastrointestinal bleeding include:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody vomit
- Vomit that looks like coffee grounds.
- Blood in the stool
- Black or tarry stools
There is evidence that alcohol may increase the risk and / or severity of gastrointestinal bleeding in ibuprofen users. Alcohol potentiates the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, especially upper gastrointestinal bleeding, in users of ibuprofen and other NSAIDs, according to a 2016 review of the research in PLoS One .
Although the consumption of alcohol and Tylenol (acetaminophen) is most commonly associated with liver damage, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen can also damage the liver by causing bile to flow back into the liver or directly damaging liver cells. In severe cases, this can lead to acute liver failure .
Symptoms of drug-induced liver damage can include:
- Extreme fatigue and weakness
- Left abdominal pain below the ribs.
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Loss of appetite
- Dark urine
- Pale stools
In particular, ibuprofen has been linked to the development of hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease) . The drug directly damages the mitochondria ("power plants" of the cell) and makes the cells less able to regulate the metabolism of lipids (fats) in the blood. Alcohol, one of the main contributors to fatty liver, not only enhances this effect, but can increase the risk of liver cirrhosis over time .
Studies have shown that long-term use of ibuprofen can damage the kidneys by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins necessary for normal urine production. This can lead to the development of acute kidney failure (ARF) , also known as acute kidney failure .
The risk of kidney damage caused by ibuprofen is higher in the elderly and people with pre-existing kidney disease, but it can also affect extreme athletes who are prone to kidney damage due to rapid muscle breakdown .
Signs and symptoms of ARF include:
- Decreased urine output
- Peripheral edema (fluid retention in the legs)
- Difficulty breathing
- Fatigue and weakness
- Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- Chest pain or pressure
Alcohol can exacerbate this effect by directly damaging the kidney filters called glomeruli. Up to 10% of alcohol is excreted from the body in its original form, causing severe oxidative stress on the glomeruli and associated tubules. Over time, this can lead to scarring, hardening, and narrowing of these structures (this is called nephrosclerosis) .
Adding ibuprofen to the mix increases the risk of nephrosclerosis and a condition called acute tubular necrosis, in which the small tubes in the kidneys begin to rupture due to tissue death .
There are drug interactions related to ibuprofen and alcohol, some of which overlap and affect both drugs. This includes:
Taking ibuprofen and alcohol with any of these medications can have an additive effect. For example, ibuprofen can promote gastrointestinal bleeding and alcohol increases the effect of blood thinners. Therefore, any bleeding caused by ibuprofen can be exacerbated by adding alcohol and a blood thinner like warfarin to the mix.
Ibuprofen can also cause drowsiness, dizziness, and blurred vision in some people. In these people, ibuprofen can potentiate the effects of alcohol, causing increased drowsiness, loss of coordination, and a slower reaction .
Get the word of drug information
The answer to the question of whether you can consume alcohol while taking ibuprofen is: "It depends on the circumstances." The risk depends largely on your age, general health, history of ulcers, or if you have liver or kidney disease.
If you drink alcohol in moderation, no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men, you will probably be fine with ibuprofen occasionally. The same may not apply if you are taking ibuprofen regularly or in high doses.
When in doubt, the best rule of thumb is to play it safe and avoid taking ibuprofen and alcohol at the same time. Better yet, talk to your doctor and be honest about how much alcohol and ibuprofen you are drinking. Your healthcare professional can help you assess your real risk so you are not in danger.