Can I drink alcohol if I'm taking painkillers?

Do not drink alcohol if you're taking some types of painkillers (analgesics), such as:

  • strong painkillers
  • prescription-only painkillers

It may be safe to drink alcohol with some painkillers that can be bought over the counter as long as you:

  • check the patient information leaflet that comes with the medicine
  • take the correct dose of your medicine 
  • do not drink more than the recommended daily limits of alcohol

For more information about the recommended daily limits for alcohol consumption, see What level of drinking reduces the health risks of alcohol?

Getting advice

Painkillers come with a patient information leaflet or have a label that tells you:

  • what dose you should be taking
  • whether it's safe to drink alcohol while you're taking the medication

Always follow this guidance. If you need more information, you can:

  • use the Medicines guide to find information about your medicine 
  • speak to your pharmacist or GP
  • call NHS 111

Below is some advice about specific types of painkillers.

Paracetamol

Paracetamol is available over the counter without a prescription. Drinking a small amount of alcohol while taking paracetamol is usually safe as long as you follow the advice above.

Paracetamol should be used with caution if you have certain health conditions, such as liver problems. Your GP or pharmacist will be able to advise you.

Aspirin and ibuprofen

Aspirin and ibuprofen are available over the counter without a prescription. Drinking a small amount of alcohol while taking aspirin or ibuprofen is usually safe as long as you follow the advice above.

Taking more than the recommended dose of aspirin or ibuprofen increases the risk of irritation to your stomach lining. This risk is increased further if you drink more than the recommended daily limits and may lead to bleeding from the stomach.

If you have liver or kidney problems, do not take aspirin or ibuprofen unless your GP tells you it is safe to do so. Children under 16 should not take aspirin.

Codeine, dihydrocodeine and tramadol

Codeine, dihydrocodeine and tramadol are types of opioid (a stronger type of painkiller). They are usually only available on prescription, although some lower-dose medicines may be available from pharmacies. They are often combined with paracetamol.

Taking opioid painkillers can cause drowsiness and low blood pressure (hypotension), and drinking alcohol while taking them will increase these effects. If you're affected, do not drink any alcohol while taking opioid painkillers.

Morphine, pethidine and other prescription-only painkillers

Morphine and pethidine are also opioid painkillers. Drinking alcohol with these medicines may make you drowsy and increase their effect. Do not drink any alcohol while you're taking them.

Many painkillers only available on prescription are strong and you should not drink alcohol while taking them. See Getting advice for where to find information about your medicine.

Read the answers to more questions about medicines.

Further information:

Media last reviewed: 08/04/2013

Next review due: 08/04/2015

Page last reviewed: 23/01/2013

Next review due: 22/01/2015