The Dangers of Mixing Ibuprofen and Alcohol: An Informative Guide

Ibuprofen is an over-the-counter painkiller you can buy without a prescription, and it comes in many brand names.

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Ibuprofen is an over-the-counter painkiller you can buy without a prescription, and it comes in many brand names. People use it for mild pain, such as headaches and toothaches.

Sadly, some individuals often overlook the risks of mixing ibuprofen with alcohol consumption. However, will ibuprofen and alcohol kill you?

No doubt that excessive alcohol consumption has multiple short- and long-term health risks. From heart disease to cancer, the dangers of drinking are uncountable. Yet, mixing ibuprofen and alcohol is far more alarming, especially for older people.

It’s important for those who take ibuprofen regularly to understand the risks associated with drinking alcohol. So, keep scrolling to know more about this.

The Effects of Ibuprofen on the Body

Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used for easing mild pain, such as migraines and dental pain. It also controls fevers when someone has the flu, for example.

This kind of drug works by blocking the production of substances causing inflammation inside your body. That’s why people also use it to reduce pains caused by conditions affecting the joints, muscles, or bones. It can also ease the swelling caused by strains and sprains.

Potential Side Effects and Health Risks Associated With Ibuprofen Use

Just like any other medicine, ibuprofen has a few unwanted side effects. That’s why healthcare professionals recommend taking the lowest dose possible for the shortest period needed.

Taking high doses of ibuprofen over prolonged periods increases the risks of heart attacks, strokes, or even women’s infertility (temporary while taking it). As for taking moderate ibuprofen doses, side effects may include:

  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal pains or indigestion

A few less common side effects:

  • Raised blood pressure
  • Fluid retention
  • Gastritis
  • Allergic reaction
  • Narrowing of the airways (bronchospasm)

The Effects of Alcohol on the Body

Alcohol doesn’t work like other drinks and foods digested by the stomach. Instead, it passes directly into your bloodstream through the stomach and small intestines. When you consume alcohol, it travels around your body, getting to your brain, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

The liver helps metabolize alcohol through two enzymes, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). They break apart the alcohol and make it easy for the body to get rid of it.

ADH metabolizes alcohol into what’s called acetaldehyde, which is a carcinogenic substance. The acetaldehyde keeps metabolizing into other less active byproducts until it ends up as water and carbon dioxide.

Drinking heavily can have numerous side effects, ranging from short- to long-term.

Short-term Side Effects and Health Risks of Alcohol Consumption

The severity of the following side effects depends on many factors, such as the type of drink, amount, the person’s age, gender, and body weight.

  • Injuries caused by falls or accidents
  • Violence and crime
  • Hangover
  • Stillbirth, miscarriage, or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) for pregnant women
  • Alcohol poisoning

Long-term Side Effects and Health Risks of Alcohol Consumption

Excessive drinking over time can cause many health conditions, diseases, and other serious issues, including

Risks of Mixing Ibuprofen and Alcohol

Generally, it should be safe to take any kind of painkiller when you’re not a heavy alcohol consumer. However, you can put yourself at serious risk if you take ibuprofen regularly while drinking more than the moderate recommended amounts of alcohol.

Some of these health risks are:

1.   Gastrointestinal Issues

Doctors usually recommend taking ibuprofen with food because it can irritate your digestive tract. That’s why taking ibuprofen in high doses or for extended periods can harm you. It increases the risk of gastric ulcers and bleeding, especially when taken on an empty stomach.

Alcohol also has this effect on the digestive tract. Consequently, mixing alcohol with ibuprofen amplifies the health risks and worsens its usual side effects. Plus, it can also exacerbate pre-existing gastrointestinal conditions.

Signs of having stomach issues include

  • Black stool
  • Continuously upset stomach
  • Blood in the vomit (or vomit resembling coffee ground)

2.   Liver Damage

By nature, alcohol is hepatotoxic, but mixing it with ibuprofen makes things worse. In simple terms, hepatotoxicity is chemically-driven liver damage that eventually leads to impairment of liver function.

According to the National Library of Medicine, ibuprofen can increase the hepatotoxicity of ethanol (alcohol). Not to mention how damaging the increased strain on the liver is due to processing both substances.

3.   Reduced Alertness and Lowered Ibuprofen Effectiveness

Since alcohol can help you relax and ibuprofen relieves pain, the combination of both can be alarming. They cause your reactions to become slower and your attention to become weaker. This can be dangerous, especially while operating a vehicle.

Additionally, not only does mixing ibuprofen with alcohol worsen the side effects, but it also reduces the effectiveness of the medicine.

4.   Increased Risk of Intoxication and Impaired Judgment

Both alcohol and ibuprofen cause drowsiness, making a person unable to function normally. Intoxicated individuals also lose their judgment and decision-making abilities because they become more impulsive.

How To Minimize the Risks of Mixing Ibuprofen and Alcohol

Of course, drinking in moderation and taking the recommended dosage for the minimum period needed is what matters. In general, having one drink with ibuprofen isn’t likely to cause you any harm. So, here’s how to minimize the risks of mixing both substances.

1. Timing Medication and Alcohol Consumption

Timing is key when taking medication while consuming alcohol, and this is how to do it.

How Long To Wait After You Take Ibuprofen Before Drinking Alcohol

Waiting for at least ten hours after taking ibuprofen before having an alcoholic drink is the safe way to go. This is the duration it takes the body to clear ibuprofen out of its system.

However, if you’re taking ibuprofen long-term, it may take longer for your system to be completely drug-free after stopping. Ask your healthcare provider about how long you should wait before having alcohol.

In all cases, you should never stop ibuprofen to have a drink if you’re taking it regularly for a specific health condition. This only worsens the side effects.

How Long To Wait After Drinking Alcohol Before You Take Ibuprofen

In the body of an average person, alcohol can stay for almost 25 hours. That’s why it’s best to wait a whole day after consuming alcohol before taking ibuprofen. However, this isn’t the case for all human beings.

Alcohol metabolizes differently for each person. For example, it takes much longer for women’s and older individuals’ (above 65) bodies to clear alcohol out. Similarly, the body of a person with a liver disease processes alcohol much slower than the average person.

2. Consulting With a Healthcare Professional

No doubt that consulting your healthcare provider is essential before taking any medications. After all, drug interactions can be life-threatening.

Talk to your doctor about the treatment, the possible side effects, and how long to take it. What’s more, discussing alcohol consumption and how it affects the medication can save you from any potential complications.

3. Considering Alternative Pain Relief Options

Considering everything, ibuprofen is safe to take as long as you follow the instructions printed on the package. So, it’s not logical to fear taking it. However, some people prefer to consider alternative pain relief options.

Switching to a different kind of painkiller is one of these solutions, but it’s not practical. That’s because most pain medications, such as naproxen and acetaminophen, can interact with alcohol too.

Surprisingly, natural home remedies aren’t the best thing to do either. Just like medications, some herbs and supplements interact with alcohol as well, causing undesirable side effects.

Here are some methods to consider for relieving pain when you’re unable to take painkillers:

  • Massage
  • Heating pads
  • Ice packs
  • Light exercise
  • Menthol rubs
  • Meditation
  • Acupuncture

4. Limiting Alcohol Intake and Practicing Moderation

Alcohol does more harm than good to human health. Thus, it’s better to limit your intake to avoid serious risks. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting alcoholic beverage intake to two drinks/day for men and one drink/day for women.

All in all, practicing moderation with all harmful substances, such as sodium, alcohol, saturated fats, and sugar, is what all people should do.

Recognizing and Responding To Adverse Reactions

It’s vital to learn about the signs of an adverse reaction when taking ibuprofen with alcohol in your system. Make sure to report all the side effects you feel to your healthcare provider.

Additionally, seek prompt medical attention if you or a close family member experience one of the following signs:

  • Stomach cramps or pain that doesn’t go away
  • Blood in stool or vomit
  • A black or tarry stool
  • Coffee-ground-like vomit
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid pulse


Ibuprofen is many people’s go-to drug for pain relief, and it’s quite effective. However, you should be careful before taking it if you consume alcohol regularly. So, will ibuprofen and alcohol kill you?

Probably not, not if you’re drinking in moderation. Yet, it can have dangerous side effects for some individuals. Consuming alcohol while taking ibuprofen puts a person at risk of liver diseases, gastrointestinal bleeding, and other serious conditions.

So, pay attention to the timing, and wait until the alcohol is out of your system before taking any medications. In addition, if you’re not hurting much, consider other alternatives for pain relief, such as exercise, heating pads, ice packs, etc.

All in all, it’s always best to consult with healthcare professionals before combining any type of medication and alcohol.


  • Will ibuprofen and alcohol kill you?