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What is Amoxicillin?

Amoxicillin is a penicillin-based antibiotic used to treat several bacterial infections. The most common infections it is used to treat include chest infections, dental abscesses, strep throat and tonsillitis, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and infections of the ear, nose, throat, or skin.

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Amoxicillin is taken orally in the form of liquid (usually for younger children), a chewable tablet, or a pill. It can also be taken by injection, though this is a rare method of delivery. It is a prescription drug sold under the brand name Amoxil, among others. 

Amoxicillin should be taken at the same time every day for the duration of treatment, and some forms of this antibiotic should be taken with food, while others should be taken several hours before or after eating.

Liquid amoxicillin should be shaken before measuring dosage, which is done with a provided dosing syringe before measuring a dose. Since the liquid version is most often given to children and infants, you can mix it with water, milk, formula, or juice to make it more palatable. If mixed, it is essential to drink the entire mixture immediately and not save any for a later time.

In addition, chewable tablets should be chewed before swallowing and regular tablets should be ingested whole without chewing or crushing them. It is important to take amoxicillin as indicated on your prescription and follow all directions, labels, guides, warnings, and instruction sheets.

Side Effects of Amoxicillin 

Several common side effects can occur when taking amoxicillin. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the stomach or abdomen
  • Headache
  • Skin rash
  • Swollen, fuzzy, or black tongue

In most people, the most commonly experienced side effects on the list above are nausea and diarrhea. Liquid amoxicillin can also stain teeth, though this is temporary and is usually removed by brushing with regular toothpaste. Using this medication for prolonged or repeated periods may also result in oral thrush or a vaginal yeast infection (oral or vaginal fungal infection).

Some people are hypersensitive to amoxicillin and other penicillin derivatives and can have more severe reactions. Though rarer, these symptoms still affect a significant portion of people and can include:

  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Painful, spreading rash
  • Skin blisters
  • Open sores
  • Liver damage
  • Severe pain in the stomach or abdomen
  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • Lethargy or general tiredness

In addition, some people develop serious side effects from severe allergic reactions to amoxicillin. These people can experience difficulty breathing and swelling of the tongue and throat. If this occurs, contact a healthcare professional immediately. 

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What Happens if You Drink Alcohol While on Antibiotics?

While it is possible to drink alcohol while on some antibiotics, including amoxicillin, it is generally not advised by most healthcare professionals. Antibiotics carry the risk of side effects, such as headache, nausea, and dizziness, which can be worsened by drinking alcohol. These effects are often also caused by alcohol use on their own.

With certain antibiotics, such as metronidazole and tinidazole, alcohol consumption should be strictly avoided. 

It is generally best to refrain from drinking alcohol while suffering from an infection or feeling unwell, as alcohol will likely make you feel worse, regardless of how it interferes with the antibiotic’s efficacy.

Side Effects of Mixing Amoxicillin and Alcohol

Several side effects can occur by mixing amoxicillin and alcohol, with most of these being potential escalations of side effects that can occur from taking either substance individually. These side effects include:

  • Feeling sick or worse than before
  • Stomach pain
  • Elevated heart rate or irregular heartbeat 
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Increased drowsiness
  • Increased blood pressure

Most of these side effects could be experienced by ingesting amoxicillin on its own, but consuming alcohol can exacerbate symptoms — or cause them to occur if they were not already present. 

Risks of Mixing Amoxicillin and Alcohol

In addition to the side effects listed above, several other risks are associated with mixing amoxicillin and alcohol. These risks include:

  • Not allowing your body to heal properly — amoxicillin is only prescribed to treat infections, which are better treated when not subjecting your body to the difficulties of processing alcohol.
  • Missing a dose — this could lead to a prolonged bout of fighting the infection that amoxicillin was prescribed to treat.
  • Failing to complete the course of antibiotics — this could lead to long-term drug-resistant bacteria.
  • Feeling worse — alcohol generally takes a toll on the body and makes you feel worse, which is often worsened when you have an infection that requires antibiotics.
  • Less effective treatment — though alcohol does not directly impede amoxicillin from killing bacteria, it can impede your body’s natural immune system response that is necessary for a quick and uncomplicated recovery.

How Long After Taking Amoxicillin Can You Drink Alcohol?

It is possible to drink alcohol while taking amoxicillin, so there is no mandatory period of abstinence following treatment with this antibiotic. 

However, it is still advised that patients wait between 48 and 72 hours after completing the entire course of antibiotics to consume any amount of alcohol. This allows the body to recover from the infection and begin to replenish the beneficial gut bacteria that have been killed from ingesting the antibiotics.

Taking Amoxicillin Safely

Since only a doctor can prescribe amoxicillin, it is essential to be honest about any underlying conditions, alcohol consumption, or drug abuse. This allows your doctor to make an informed decision about whether or not to prescribe you amoxicillin, and if so, where to set the dosage.

If your doctor decides amoxicillin is suitable for you, be sure to do the following:

  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions properly
  • Follow your doctors’ instructions for consumption (this typically means taking a tablet two to three times a day with food)
  • Take doses regularly
  • If you forget a dose, take it as soon as you remember and stick to the routine
  • Complete the whole course as prescribed unless instructed otherwise by your doctor
  • Do not skip days
  • Do not drink while taking amoxicillin

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Resources

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Mergenhagen, Kari A, et al. “Fact versus Fiction: a Review of the Evidence behind Alcohol and Antibiotic Interactions.” Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, American Society for Microbiology, 21 Feb. 2020

Moore, Alison A et al. “Risks of combined alcohol/medication use in older adults.” The American journal of geriatric pharmacotherapy vol. 5,1 (2007): 64-74. doi:10.1016/j.amjopharm.2007.03.006

Ron Weathermon, Pharm.D., and David W. Crabb, M.D. Alcohol and Medication Interactions. NIAAA

Kari A. Mergenhagen, Bethany A. Wattengel, Megan K. Skelly, Collin M. Clark, Thomas A. Russo. Fact versus Fiction: a Review of the Evidence behind Alcohol and Antibiotic Interactions. DOI: 10.1128/AAC.02167-19

Baena, José M et al. "Relation between alcohol consumption and the success of Helicobacter pylori eradication therapy using omeprazole, clarithromycin and amoxicillin for 1 week," European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology: March 2002 - Volume 14 - Issue 3 - p 291-296.

Morasso MI, et al. "Amoxicillin kinetics and ethanol ingestion." International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Therapy, and Toxicology. 1988 Sep;26(9):428-431

Hakami, Alqassem Y, et al. “Effects of Amoxicillin and Augmentin on Cystine-Glutamate Exchanger and Glutamate Transporter 1 Isoforms as Well as Ethanol Intake in Alcohol-Preferring Rats.” Frontiers in Neuroscience, Frontiers Media S.A., 25 Apr. 2016

Goodwani, Sunil, et al. “Amoxicillin and Amoxicillin/Clavulanate Reduce Ethanol Intake and Increase GLT-1 Expression as Well as AKT Phosphorylation in Mesocorticolimbic Regions.” Brain Research, Elsevier, 10 July 2015

Chan, LN., Anderson, G.D. Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamic Drug Interactions with Ethanol (Alcohol). Clin Pharmacokinet 53, 1115–1136 (2014)

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