Naproxen and Alcohol

What is Naproxen (Aleve)?

Naproxen (known by brand name Aleve® or Naprosyn®) is a type of painkiller that falls under the category of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). 

Naproxen

Like corticosteroids (or steroids), but without as many side effects, NSAIDs work by blocking your body's production of certain natural substances that cause inflammation. Other examples of NSAIDS include ibuprofen (known by brand names Motrin® and Advil®) and meloxicam (known by brand name Mobic®). 

This particular prescription drug helps treat pain, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness in individuals suffering from osteoarthritis (a degenerative joint disease) and rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disorder that attacks the body’s own tissues). 

Additionally, healthcare professionals may prescribe naproxen for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (a type of arthritis in children under 16) and ankylosing spondylitis (arthritis that impacts the spine). Children must be at least 2 years old before they can begin taking the NSAID, and the prescription needs to be approved by a physician. 

Naproxen also has FDA approval for first-line treatment of medical conditions, such as acute gout (sudden, severe joint pain that is more prevalent in men), bursitis, tendonitis, and primary dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps).

Lastly, although not approved by the FDA for such use (off-label), naproxen may also treat acute migraines and help in chronic migraine prevention. 

Naproxen is available as a tablet or liquid that are both administered orally. Individuals may take over-the-counter naproxen with food or milk to prevent nausea. Individuals may also consider naproxen sodium (known by brand name Anaprox®) as treatment, given its proven capability of faster absorption by the body. In either case, clinicians will prescribe the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time to minimize the risk of serious side effects. 

Common Side Effects of Naproxen

Side effects of naproxen may range from mild to serious.

Some of the less common side effects include:

  • Double vision
  • Night blindness
  • Bloating or sensation of feeling full
  • Intense, continuous nausea
  • Racing heart rate 
  • Rapid breathing
  • Thirst
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating

 The most common side effects include:

  • Ringing in the ears
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Belching
  • Heartburn
  • High blood pressure
  • Blue or purple patches on the skin
  • Stomach pain
  • Skin eruptions
  • Excessive thirst
  • Tarry stools

Should the following serious side effects occur, it is recommended to seek medical attention immediately:

  • Changes in vision
  • Sore throat 
  • Sudden, unexplained weight gain
  • Confusion
  • Skin reactions — these may include skin rash, purple blotches on the skin, hives, blisters, or skin reddening. 
  • Stomach bleeding — individuals may have bloody or tarry (dark) stools, or cough up blood or vomit resembling coffee grounds as a result of stomach ulcers. Pain may be in the right upper part of the stomach. 
  • Liver issues these may include nausea, flu-like symptoms, dark urine, jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin or eyes), or a decrease in appetite.
  • Kidney problems these may include swelling in feet or ankles, decreased urination, dyspnea (shortness of breath), or lack of energy.

It is important to remember that taking NSAIDS like naproxen can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. Events like these can happen without warning, even if individuals do not have any risk factors. 

Women trying to become pregnant should not take naproxen. The drug may delay ovulation (when the ovary releases an egg) and affect a woman’s ability to conceive children. 

Finally, individuals who take naproxen for longer-than-average periods may have to undergo frequent medical tests to monitor possible, unwanted effects. For these people, the risk of a heart attack or stroke is even higher. 

Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Naproxen?

Naproxen provides pain relief by inhibiting the production of a hormone called prostaglandin. Unlike other hormones that originate primarily from glands, prostaglandins are produced in almost any cell at the site of injury. When your body releases prostaglandins, inflammation like swelling and fever appears. When individuals take naproxen, the pain medication helps diminish the effects caused by the hormone. 

This also means that naproxen can lessen the protective effects associated with prostaglandin, such as mending and conserving the stomach lining. Proper dosis adherence to naproxen minimizes the risk of developing gastritis (stomach lining becomes inflamed), ulcers, and gastrointestinal bleeding. 

However, this risk can increase if an individual decides to consume alcohol while taking naproxen. Alcohol has been shown to have detrimental effects on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In large amounts, alcohol can cause cell death in the mucosal lining and facilitate the appearance of ulcers. It can also contribute to inflammatory bowel diseases and chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.

The combination of naproxen and alcohol can therefore result in serious health consequences that require immediate emergency care.

What Happens If You Drink Alcohol While Taking Naproxen?

Taking naproxen with alcohol can produce life-threatening health effects like upper gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. 

Heavy drinking can put stress on the GI and liver and result in organ damage. When combined with naproxen or any other NSAID, the risk of developing a stomach ulcer or gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) that leads to upper GI bleeding increases.

Older people have an increased risk of serious alcohol-medication interaction. As an adult ages, the body has more difficulty in metabolizing alcohol quickly. This means that alcohol stays in the body for a longer time and can continue interacting with the drug. 

Similarly, prolonged use of alcohol and naproxen may indicate an underlying dependency on alcohol. Continual misuse of such drugs may lead to a substance use disorder and potential overdoses. 

Dangers of Mixing Naproxen and Alcohol

It is important to consider all the risks associated when combining naproxen and alcohol. A healthcare provider can review that information and resolve any possible doubts.

As mentioned prior, naproxen may cause stomach bleeding; drinking alcohol while taking naproxen can increase the risk of this occurring. If you believe you have symptoms associated with stomach or intestinal bleeding, seek medical help immediately

How much alcohol can you drink with naproxen?

It is recommended not to mix Aleve and alcohol at all. However, if you only drink one to two standard drinks a day and take a normal dose of naproxen, you most likely will not experience any harmful effects.

How soon after taking naproxen can I drink alcohol?

Naproxen has a half-life of 12 to 17 hours. This means that the body will eliminate at least half of this chemical compound after this time has passed. At that point, an individual can begin to drink alcohol moderately. 

Can you drink alcohol while taking anti-inflammatory drugs?

Both naproxen and ibuprofen are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that have been associated with an elevated risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Consuming alcohol can increase this risk. It is not recommended to mix either of these two types of painkillers with alcohol. 

Resources

“Alcohol and NSAIDs Increase Risk for Upper GI Bleeding.” American Family Physician, 1 May 2000, www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0501/p2863.html.

“Alcohol Research: Current Reviews.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.arcr.niaaa.nih.gov/arcr382/article01.htm.

Brutzkus, Joseph C. “Naproxen.” StatPearls [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 24 May 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK525965/.

“Naproxen (Oral Route) Before Using.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 Feb. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/naproxen-oral-route/before-using/drg-20069820.

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Updated on: November 4, 2020
Author
Anthony Armenta
About
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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