Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol with Beta Blockers?

Beta blockers.
Beta blockers and alcohol both have a depressive effect, so they should not be taken together.
People with a history of alcoholism should discuss their drinking with their physician before taking beta blockers.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 31 August 2014
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It is not safe to drink alcohol with beta blockers, as it can interact with the medication and cause a dangerous drop in heart rate and blood pressure. Beta blockers can also interact negatively with caffeine, stimulants, and other blood pressure drugs. Before a patient starts therapy, it is important to discuss side effects and contraindications with a doctor, and to talk about any prescriptions the patient may already be taking to determine if they pose a risk.

The problem seen in patients who drink alcohol with beta blockers is that both have a depressive effect. The beta blockers address high blood pressure by slowing the heart rate and making it pump less forcefully, forcing the blood pressure down because less blood flows through the patient's body. Alcohol tends to cause blood pressure drops as well, especially in high volume. When the two mix, it can result in a very sudden and serious drop in blood pressure that could endanger the patient.

A doctor will usually recommend against mixing alcohol with beta blockers. Patients who do consume alcohol despite medical advice may notice an increase in dizziness and fatigue. This is a sign that the blood pressure is dropping, and the patient cannot tolerate the mix. Other people may not notice side effects and can safely drink now and then. It can be hard to determine how a person will respond, and for liability reasons a doctor will usually not give a patient clearance to drink.

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If a patient consumes alcohol with beta blockers and does notice signs of a bad reaction, it is advisable to call a doctor. The doctor may recommend taking the person to a hospital for treatment. Patients will not be penalized for noncompliance, as the focus will be on making the patient stable with medical treatment. If the alcohol consumption becomes a recurrent issue and the patient clearly has trouble with the stipulation against alcohol, it may be necessary to consider an alcohol treatment program or other measures to control blood pressure.

People with a history of alcoholism should discuss this before taking beta blockers, as it can be a risk factor. It is also important to be aware that alcohol, diabetes, and beta blockers can have serious interactions with each other. Diabetic patients may have trouble processing alcohol, and beta blockers also tend to impact their blood sugar. The combination of these factors can make the mixture extremely dangerous, and such patients should be very careful to avoid alcohol.

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umbra21
Post 3

@irontoenail - Even caffeine is supposed to be bad with beta blockers so I guess that would be even more of an issue. Most people know not to mix alcohol with medication after all, no matter how harmless the medication is.

This is generally to protect the liver, since most medicines are difficult to process, and alcohol is too, so both together can damage the liver.

But I wouldn't even think of caffeine as being an issue if I was taking medication.

It makes sense when you think about it, since caffeine is supposed to affect the heart, and I know it can cause palpitations in people if they have too much.

But I'll bet most people don't know that.

irontoenail
Post 2

@Mor - I'm sure your mother will be fine. There are often cases where they need to adjust pacemakers and use beta blockers in the short term while people get adjusted. It is a foreign object in the body, after all, and her body has to get used to it.

I think this is more of a concern to all the people who use beta blockers for anxiety. I know not all of them are getting them on prescription, because often people will use them to calm themselves before a performance or speech and I'm pretty sure most doctors wouldn't prescribe medication for that.

So, without a doctor's advice they might be taking these drugs which I'm sure their friends tell them are "perfectly safe". And they are, as long as you are supposed to be taking them, and don't drink alcohol with them.

I'll bet most problems come when people take them without knowing that you can't drink and end up getting sick when they do.

Mor
Post 1

My mother has recently been put on beta blockers unexpectedly so I'll be sure to make sure she knows about beta blockers and alcohol.

The doctor probably did tell her, but you never know whether or not someone has really taken that kind of information in and it's all too easy to reach for a casual evening beer or wine with your friends, not even really thinking about it as an issue.

She was put on a pacemaker a few weeks ago and seemed to be doing fine, but now there's an extra beat in her heart, which is why they prescribed the beta blockers. It's just a temporary measure until they can get her in to see the specialist.

So, since it was done so quickly, I just want to make extra sure there's not going to be any problems for the short time she'll be on the drugs.

I really hope they can figure out the problem, and she can go off the medication quickly though.

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