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Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking DayQuil?

Vicks NyQuil is an over-the-counter (OTC) cold, flu, and cough medicine. It relieves common cold symptoms, including nasal congestion, cough, and aches/pains. It also helps you fall asleep. Nyquil comes in both pill and cough syrup forms. 

vicks Nyquil

NyQuil SEVERE has acetaminophen and is a fever reducer. NyQuil is different from DayQuil, which is a non-drowsy cold and flu symptom reliever.

NyQuil users should avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol enhances the effects of NyQuil’s active ingredients. This means when you take NyQuil and drink alcohol simultaneously, the potency of the medication increases. This mix can also trigger other dangerous side effects, such as slowed heart rate and breathing. 

Ingredients in NyQuil

NyQuil has several active ingredients. They include:

Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is added to NyQuil to reduce aches, pains, and fevers. You can buy the drug on its own (Tylenol) or buy an OTC cold medicine that contains Acetaminophen.

Mixing acetaminophen and alcohol is dangerous. The liver metabolizes alcohol and acetaminophen. Combining the two puts a lot of stress on the liver. 

In most cases, people do not experience any serious health complications when they accidentally mix acetaminophen and alcoholic beverages. However, taking acetaminophen regularly with heavy alcohol use causes severe liver damage. 

Dextromethorphan (DXM) HBr

DXM is another active ingredient in NyQuil. It works as a cough suppressant. When used as directed, DXM is effective and safe and poses very few health risks. However, when taken in higher doses, DXM triggers side effects similar to consuming too much alcohol. 

Some people who take high doses of DXM experience hallucinations. Mixing alcohol and DXM significantly increases the drug’s side effects.

Dextromethorphan Statistics

320

Thousand

Estimated number of prescriptions for dextromethorphan in the United States.

$9.92

Average

Total drug cost of dextromethorphan.

$3.51

Average

Out-of-pocket cost of dextromethorphan.

Doxylamine Succinate

Doxylamine succinate is an antihistamine. It is an ingredient in NyQuil that eases nasal congestion, sneezing, and runny nose. This ingredient also causes drowsiness.

Mixing doxylamine succinate with alcohol triggers dangerous levels of sedation. This is because both substances act as depressants and produce sedative effects.

NyQuil Liquid contains 10 percent alcohol, which helps dissolve the other ingredients in the medication. However, NyQuil LiquiCaps and Alcohol-Free Nyquil Cold & Flu Nighttime Relief Liquid do not contain alcohol. 

Some people assume mixing NyQuil and alcohol is dangerous due to the overconsumption of alcohol. Although partly true, the real danger is from combining alcohol with the drug’s active ingredients. Users consume about the same amount of alcohol from a regular dose of NyQuil as they would from a sip of white wine.

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Side Effects of Mixing Nyquil and Alcohol 

Mixing NyQuil with alcohol produces a variety of side effects. Some people who mix the two substances just fall asleep faster and experience deeper sleep. However, if you consume a large amount of alcohol and take NyQuil, the effects can be extremely dangerous. 

Short-term side effects of mixing NyQuil and alcohol include:

  • Increased sedation and drowsiness
  • Coordination issues
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach

Risks & Dangers of Nyquil and Alcohol Interaction

A single occurrence of mixing NyQuil and alcohol is unlikely to cause severe side effects. Frequently mixing them can cause liver damage and other serious medical issues. This is because the mixture of alcohol and acetaminophen puts stress on the liver.

You should call 911 or seek emergency medical attention immediately if you have mixed NyQuil and alcohol and notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Intense drowsiness
  • Digestive distress, including nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Other Nyquil Interactions: Medications That Contain Acetaminophen 

In addition to avoiding alcohol when taking NyQuil, it’s also crucial to avoid other medications that contain acetaminophen. Anything that causes you to exceed the daily recommended dose of acetaminophen is dangerous.

Many OTC medications contain acetaminophen. So, if you are taking NyQuil, it’s essential to carefully read the ingredient list of any other drug you are taking at the same time. 

Other commonly used OTC medications that might elevate the level of acetaminophen in your system include:

  • Dimetapp
  • Excedrin
  • Midol
  • Robitussin
  • Sudafed
  • Theraflu

Prescription medications that contain acetaminophen are also a concern. These include Percocet and Vicodin.

It’s important to evaluate other pain reliever medications if you are also taking NyQuil. Ideally, anyone taking a short-term medication to reduce a fever or alleviate flu symptoms should stay alcohol-free. 

If you are unsure if a medication you use contains acetaminophen, check the ingredients list, contact your doctor, or talk to a pharmacist.

Common Questions and Answers

What kind of alcohol does NyQuil contain?

Nyquil Cold and Flu Nighttime Relief Liquid contains 10 percent alcohol by volume (similar to white wine). It is listed as an "inactive" ingredient and is used to help the "active" ingredients dissolve.

Can NyQuil make you tired the next day?

NyQuil can make you drowsy, dizzy, and cause temporary blurred vision the following day, depending on how much you took.

Will NyQuil make you fail a breathalyzer?

If you consumed a high dose of an alcohol-containing NyQuil product, a false positive breathalyzer result can occur.

How long does it take for NyQuil to wear off?

How long NyQuil stays in your system depends on how much you took and other physical factors, such as weight and age. A normal dose of NyQuil can help you sleep for four to eight hours.

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Resources

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“NyQuil: Indications, Side Effects, Warnings.” Drugs.Com, www.drugs.com/cdi/nyquil.html.

Foust, Robert T., et al. “Nyquil‐Associated Liver Injury.” University of Miami's Research Profiles, Nature Publishing Group, miami.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/nyquilassociated-liver-injury.

Summers, Kent H., and Ashok K. Gumbhir. “The Alcohol and Caloric Content of Commonly Prescribed Liquid Drug Products.” Journal of Pharmacy Technology, vol. 1, no. 4, July 1985, pp. 162–165, doi:10.1177/875512258500100407. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/875512258500100407?journalCode=pmta

Koff RS, Papadimas I, Honig EG. Alcohol in Cough Medicines Hazard to Disulfiram User. JAMA. 1971;215(12):1988–1989. doi:10.1001/jama.1971.03180250080032. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/360815

Miller, Allyssa. “The Effect of DayQuil and NyQuil on the Heart Rate of Daphnia Magna.” OpenSIUC, Southern Illinois University, 2014, opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/ijshs_2014/3/.

Sethi, Roopa et al. “Serotonin Syndrome in a Sertraline-Treated Man Taking NyQuil Containing Dextromethorphan for Cold.” The primary care companion for CNS disorders vol. 14,6 (2012): PCC.12l01388. doi:10.4088/PCC.12l01388. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3622531/

Fleckenstein, J L. “Nyquil and acute hepatic necrosis.” The New England journal of medicine vol. 313,1 (1985): 48. doi:10.1056/nejm198507043130112. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/4000227/.

WE;, Johnson MW;Friedman PA;Mitch. “Alcoholism, Nonprescription Drug and Hepatotoxicity. The Risk from Unknown Acetaminophen Ingestion.” The American Journal of Gastroenterology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7331985/.

Dextromethorphan, Drug Usage Statistics, ClinCalc DrugStats Database, 2018, clincalc.com/DrugStats/Drugs/Dextromethorphan.

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