Antibiotics: A Tale of Liquor
I’m sure at some point you heard this famous line, “I can’t drink, I’m on antibiotics.” While I will not encourage the consumption of any substance with the slightest detrimental effect to your health, as a bearer of information, I have a responsibility to keep you informed. And of course, this makes for good ice-breaking conversation at a dinner party.
First things first, do NOT take as much as a drop of alcohol when you are on the antibiotic called Metronidazole. It can precipitate a disulfiram-like reaction that can even lead to death. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at how the story of alcohol’s incompatibility with all antibiotics came about.
Once upon a time, it was World War II. As you can imagine, mortality was in the air. With the dread of death and being away from home, soldiers found themselves reaching for alcohol, which fueled an already heightened libido. In the circumstances, the use of condoms was not quite a priority. The result was an explosion of sexually transmitted diseases, most notably, syphilis. To stop the spread of these infections, the doctors thought it was best to instruct patients to abstain from alcohol and sex. While the reason behind the abstinence from sex is apparent, the caution against alcohol was to keep the soldiers sober, which in turn reduced their chances of having sex.
Since then, it has become common practice to tell anyone on antibiotics not to drink alcohol, but therapeutically, there is very little evidence for this caution. Again, this is not a pass to drink while on medication as alcohol has other effects that may reduce your chances of recovery. It is just an article to let you know where the origin of the caution against drinking when on antibiotics originated.
First published in Network
December 19, 2019
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