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Mixing Ibuprofen and Alcohol? A Surprisingly Risky Combination

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Ibuprofen is one of the most common over-the-counter (OTC) medications available. Mixing ibuprofen with alcohol after an evening of drinking for a headache or other type of pain is common but comes with side effects that can even result in death (in extreme cases).

In this article:

What Is Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is an OTC pain reliever used to reduce inflammation, which is a response of the immune system to protect the body from infection, injury, or disease. It may be used for treating colds and flu in addition to headaches and the discomfort of arthritis and other chronic conditions.

Ibuprofen is classified as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).1 These are drugs that are used to treat inflammation and reduce pain. Some common NSAIDs include:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin
  • Naproxen

Ibuprofen is commonly sold OTC under generic names like:2

  • Addaprin
  • Advil
  • Cedaprin
  • I-Prin
  • Midol
  • Motrin
  • NeoProfen
  • Proprinal
  • Ultraprin

Ibuprofen is also often found in other medications, such as cold and flu medicines.

Ibuprofen works by inhibiting the body’s production of prostaglandins that can cause pain, swelling, and fever. Prostaglandins are compounds that influence the body’s response to pain and inflammation.3

Ibuprofen acts quickly and has fewer side effects than other anti-inflammatory medications like corticosteroids. Taking ibuprofen is safe as long as you follow a doctor’s directions, exercise precautions, and use the lowest dosage needed to ease physical symptoms.

Side Effects of Ibuprofen

Although ibuprofen is an OTC drug that can be taken without a prescription, it is still a strong medication with potentially harmful side effects even when not combining it with any other substances.

Common ibuprofen side effects include:4

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Some less common side effects include:4

  • Hypertension
  • Fluid retention
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach inflammation
  • Digestive ulcers

Anyone with kidney or liver problems, asthma, or other disorders should be extremely cautious in taking ibuprofen and then only when directed by a physician.

Effects of Mixing Ibuprofen and Alcohol

Mixing ibuprofen and alcohol may seem safe enough. However, those who mix ibuprofen and alcohol in more than a moderate amount can have potentially serious side effects. Long-term use of ibuprofen along with regular alcohol use increases the likelihood of side effects.

Combining alcohol and ibuprofen can cause side effects that range from mild to serious depending on how much alcohol and ibuprofen have been taken. Having a moderate amount of alcohol can consist of 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men per day.5

The side effects that can occur when combining alcohol and ibuprofen can affect various systems of the body, creating serious health issues including abuse and addiction.

If you feel like you’re developing an addiction to mixing alcohol and ibuprofen, call 800-948-8417 Question iconCalls are forwarded to these paid advertisers to talk to a rehab treatment specialist today. You can also find an AA meeting online.

Stomach Irritation from Mixing Ibuprofen and Alcohol

Ibuprofen can irritate your stomach’s lining, which is a reason for taking this medication with food. This irritation can lead to a gastric or intestinal perforation that can be fatal. When someone takes ibuprofen for an extended period or uses high doses, this can lead to a higher risk of developing gastric ulcers or bleeding in the digestive tract.

Alcohol also irritates the stomach and digestive tract, leading to an increase in side effects.

The National Institutes of Health indicates that taking ibuprofen can interact with alcohol, worsening typical side effects of ibuprofen. It can result in bleeding and a rapid heartbeat. The longer you take ibuprofen, the more likely you are to experience stomach ulcer bleeding.6

Effects on the Kidneys

The kidneys filter harmful substances, including alcohol, from the body. The more alcohol someone drinks, the harder the kidneys have to work.

Ibuprofen, along with other NSAIDs, affects kidney functioning by stopping the production of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX). When this production is limited, ibuprofen reduces inflammation and pain.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, alcohol strains the kidneys, and chronic, heavy use doubles the risk of someone developing chronic kidney issues.7 Some of these problems may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in the hands, feet, or ankles
  • Shortness of breath

Occasional use of ibuprofen by healthy people typically does not cause kidney issues. Those who are at higher risk are those who may already have kidney problems. Long-term use of mixing alcohol and ibuprofen may result in some difficulties with the kidneys.

Increased Drowsiness from Mixing Ibuprofen and Alcohol

Another potential issue is that both alcohol and ibuprofen can cause drowsiness. Combining them can make drowsiness worse and lead to a significant decrease in the ability to function and remain alert. This creates a serious risk when driving and drinking, especially if the driver has taken ibuprofen with alcohol.6

Effects on Older Adults

Older adults have increased risks from mixing ibuprofen and alcohol. As people age, their bodies are less able to break down alcohol as effectively as when they were younger. Smaller amounts of alcohol in older people can cause greater interactions with ibuprofen that can increase their risk.

Older people also tend to take more medications than their younger counterparts. This can lead to even more difficulties for those who may already combine alcohol and ibuprofen.6

Overall Effects on Health

Mixing even legal substances is risky as NSAIDs have side effects. Reactions can range from mild to severe and even cause death. Many medications, including those over the counter, have warnings against mixing them with alcohol.

Mixing medication with alcohol can be dangerous to someone’s health. Ibuprofen can interact with some drugs, making them less effective. Alcohol can also intensify the side effects of certain medications such as cold medication, prescription pain relievers, and headache medications.6

For those thinking of combining ibuprofen and another medication, it is important to read the label on the medication bottle as many medications contain amounts of ibuprofen.

Consuming a small amount of alcohol while taking ibuprofen may not be harmful. However, you can easily take more ibuprofen while drinking a lot of alcohol, which can result in significant issues.

When someone has had too much to drink, they may reach for ibuprofen to relieve a headache. The stomach can also be rather sensitive after drinking a large amount of alcohol.

They need to take precautions since they may still have some alcohol in their system and may be setting themselves up for various issues related to combining alcohol and ibuprofen. The most effective strategy is not to consume alcohol and ibuprofen at the same time.

Long-Term Effects of Mixing Ibuprofen and Alcohol

The long-term effects from taking ibuprofen and mixing it with alcohol include:6

  • Increased sensitivity to ibuprofen and alcohol
  • Increased risk of becoming physically dependent on alcohol
  • Potential hazard of developing an addiction
  • Increased risk of overdose

Possible dangerous side effects of mixing ibuprofen and alcohol include:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Kidney damage
  • Impaired responsiveness
  • Increased heart rate

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, serious risks of mixing alcohol and ibuprofen include:6

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Kidney damage
  • Impaired responsiveness
  • Increased heart rate

Combining these substances long-term can result in an addiction to alcohol. Warning signs of a potential addictive disorder include:8

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Seclusion
  • Relationship issues
  • Decreased attendance at work or other social events
  • Acting secretive or suspicious
  • Change in activities and interests
  • Unexplained changes in personality
  • Acting fearful, anxious, or paranoid

It is important to watch for these or other signs of potential issues related to combining ibuprofen and alcohol. If you think you or someone you know is mixing ibuprofen and alcohol, it is best to get help as soon as possible to prevent accidents from happening.

Alcohol Withdrawal

If someone regularly drinks a large quantity of alcohol to deal with chronic pain or inflammation, they can develop a physical dependence on alcohol. In that case, attempting to stop drinking suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms that may be intense and even life-threatening. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:8

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Sweating
  • Seizures
  • Severe confusion

Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and life-threatening, making it extremely important to find a medically-supervised detox program for safety in a secure environment as the first step in recovery. This will allow for a safe withdrawal from alcohol.

Medical treatment is essential in managing the effects of chronically mixing ibuprofen and alcohol. In addition to a medical detox program, addiction treatment may include group and individual therapy and a 12-step recovery program.

It is best to be cautious and not risk experiencing side effects from combining ibuprofen and alcohol. It is better to be safe than sorry. Call 800-948-8417 Question iconCalls are forwarded to these paid advertisers if you or a loved one needs assistance.


  1. Food and Drug Administration. (2018, February 26). FDA Drug Safety Communication.
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2021, February 1). Ibuprofen (oral route).
  3. National Institutes of Health. (2012, May 1). Prostaglandins and inflammation.
  4. S. Food and Drug Administration. (2016, April 6). Ibuprofen drug facts label.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 29). Dietary guidelines for alcohol.
  6. National Institutes of Health. (2014). Mixing alcohol with medications.
  7. National Kidney Foundation. (2021, February 21). Drinking alcohol affects your kidneys.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, February 16). Alcohol use disorder.
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