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Mixing Aspirin and Alcohol (Interactions & Risks)

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What is Aspirin?

Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug(NSAID) painkiller.

Bottle of Aspirin

NSAIDs can help treat various symptoms, including:

  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Arthritis
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Headaches

Other common NSAIDs include ibuprofen, naproxen, and prescription celecoxib. 

Your healthcare provider may prescribe aspirin for a variety of reasons. However, aspirin is often prescribed to reduce fevers and relieve mild to moderate pain. Aspirin is commonly prescribed for muscle aches, toothaches, colds, and headaches.

  • You can also purchase over-the-counter (OTC) aspirin. OTC medications are often available at a lower strength.

Side Effects of Aspirin

Common side effects of aspirin include:

  • Mild indigestion (stomach aches)
  • Quicker and prolonged bleeding
  • Mild headache

In more serious cases, people report these side effects:

  • Red, blistered, and peeling skin 
  • Blood in pee, stool, or vomit
  • Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes) due to liver damage

In rare cases, people may experience an extreme allergic reaction to aspirin called anaphylaxis. 

You should not take aspirin with ibuprofen or naproxen without consulting a healthcare provider. Combining these NSAIDs increases the risk of side effects. However, it is safe to take aspirin with acetaminophen.

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Can I Drink Alcohol and Take Aspirin?

It is not recommended to drink alcohol and take aspirin at the same time. 

Mixing alcohol and aspirin can also cause indigestion problems and increase the risk of stomach ulcers. Alcohol may affect how the body absorbs and metabolizes aspirin, delaying the drug’s effects. 

Anyone with an alcohol use disorder should not take aspirin without speaking to a healthcare provider first.

3 Side Effects of Mixing Aspirin and Alcohol

Aspirin alone can contribute to gastrointestinal bleeding (stomach bleeding), ulcers, or holes. When mixed with alcohol, these side effects can become intensified. The more alcohol consumed, the greater the risk of gastric distress.

There are a few important side effects to consider when mixing aspirin and alcohol:

1. Higher Risk of Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Mixing aspirin and alcohol can cause bleeding in the stomach or intestines. 

Because aspirin is a blood thinner and alcohol increases blood pressure, you may experience prolonged gastrointestinal bleeding. The more alcohol you drink, the thinner your blood becomes, which can lead to significant bleeding.

Prolonged bleeding is often without symptoms, which can be potentially life-threatening. 

Sometimes, gastric bleeding appears as black or red stools or blood in vomit. When treated quickly, gastrointestinal bleeding is not usually life-threatening.

2. Higher Risk of Liver Damage

Both aspirin and alcohol put stress on the liver independently. However, when combined, these two substances can substantially increase liver damage.

When taken together for a prolonged period, the damage to your liver can become permanent. This can lead to serious health complications and even death. 

3. Increased Toxicity of Both Substances

When you mix alcohol and aspirin, your liver must go into overdrive to process both substances. Because the liver struggles to process, both substances enter the bloodstream at a higher intensity. 

The inability to process the aspirin and alcohol simultaneously results in increased toxicity. This increased toxicity can cause:

  • Alcohol enters your bloodstream more quickly, making your impaired faster
  • Problems operating vehicles due to your blood alcohol content (BAC) being higher than if you didn’t take aspirin
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Increased sleepiness, lightheadedness, and difficulty breathing
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How Long After Drinking Alcohol Can I Take Aspirin?

It is important to check the drug’s information pamphlet to confirm.

Typically if you have one standard drink, your liver will metabolize that drink in about 1 hour. If you drink more than one standard drink, your body will take longer to metabolize the alcohol.

For optimal effects and minimal risk of complications, avoid drinking alcohol when taking aspirin.

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Does the Size of the Aspirin Dose Matter?

In general, the smaller the dose of aspirin, the less likely it will counter-interact with alcohol. However, the correct amount of aspirin depends on each person’s health history. 

People with heart-related health issues may be prescribed “baby aspirin,” which is 81 milligrams. A regular-strength aspirin pill is usually 325 milligrams. 

No matter the dosage, it’s always important to listen to the FDA’s recommendations when mixing aspirin and alcohol. Taking a low aspirin dose will still leave you at risk for adverse side effects.

What Pain Medications Can You Take With Alcohol?

Many doctors agree that taking a low dose of NSAIDs and having the FDA-recommended number of drinks is safe if not done often.4 However, it’s not recommended. 

The most common pain relievers are acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin. All three have the potential to create ulcers, damage the liver, and negatively affect your kidneys when used with alcohol.5

Similarly, prescribed pain medications, like opioids, should never be mixed with alcohol. Combining opioids with alcohol can cause similar heightened toxicity rates as NSAIDs. 

Mixing opioids and alcohol can also cause dangerous respiratory depression, especially with the elderly. Respiratory depression can lead to death.6

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Updated on October 3, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. NHS.“Aspirin for Pain Relief.” 2018.
  2. MedlinePlus. “Aspirin: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2020.
  3. US Food and Drug Administration. “DURLAZA (Aspirin) Extended Release Capsules, for Oral Use.” 2015.
  4. NHS. “Can I drink alcohol if I'm taking painkillers?” 2020.
  5. Williams College. “Alcohol and Tylenol (or other pain relievers) Don't Mix.”
  6. American Society of Anesthesiologists. “Mixing Opioids and Alcohol May Increase Likelihood of Dangerous Respiratory Complication, Especially in the Elderly, Study Finds.”2017.

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