What Are the Risks of Acyclovir and Alcohol? (with pictures)

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Drinking alcohol with acyclovir can lead to an increase in the severity of side effects.
Drinking alcohol with acyclovir can lead to an increase in the severity of side effects.

Acyclovir and alcohol can be a bad combination in some patients, although generally casual social drinking is not dangerous. The primary concern about drinking while on this medication is that it could increase the severity of side effects, making patients uncomfortable and potentially also making it harder to adhere to the therapy plan. In addition, patients with existing liver problems could be at risk of complications if they drink, because their livers are already burdened and may not be able to take additional the additional work. A medical professional can advise a patient on whether it is safe to use acyclovir and alcohol.

Taking acyclovir and alcohol may damage the liver and kidneys.
Taking acyclovir and alcohol may damage the liver and kidneys.

This antiviral medication may be used to treat outbreaks of shingles, genital herpes, and severe chickenpox. Clinical trials indicate that it is safe to drink while taking the drug, as long as people stick to moderate drinking. Alcoholics and people with high alcohol intake may be at higher risk of interactions between the alcohol and their medication. The risk of interactions isn’t severe enough to recommend skipping or delaying a dose if someone has just had a drink.

Light, social drinking may be safe when taking acyclovir.
Light, social drinking may be safe when taking acyclovir.

One concern with acyclovir and alcohol is that it can interfere with drug metabolism. This can increase the concentration of the drug in body and may make some side effects worse. People who drink while on the medication may experience drowsiness, fainting, dizziness, and vision changes. Patients who notice these symptoms may want to avoid drinking to reduce the chance that they get worse.

Dizziness may occur in people who combine acyclovir and alcohol.
Dizziness may occur in people who combine acyclovir and alcohol.

Individuals with liver or kidney impairment may have trouble metabolizing the drug, and drinking can add to this. They may require dosage adjustments to take acyclovir safely, especially if they are also on other medications. For them, combining acyclovir with alcohol may not interact well because they might put too much strain on the liver. Blood tests can determine if the liver or kidneys are compromised by the medication, and may provide more information about whether moderate drinking is safe.

Acyclovir is often used to treat outbreaks of shingles.
Acyclovir is often used to treat outbreaks of shingles.

People with specific questions about the safety of acyclovir and alcohol in their cases can discuss their concerns with a medical professional. Advice from patient to patient may vary depending on response to the medication, medical history, and lifestyle factors. If patients want to cut back on drinking for health reasons, or to reduce the risk of medication interactions, but aren’t sure about how to start; a medical professional can offer assistance and advice. It can be especially important to discuss a reduction in drinking if people have a history of drinking heavily, because they might be at risk of complications while tapering back or stopping alcohol consumption.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a InfoBloom researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a InfoBloom researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

Soulfox

@Terrificli -- The problem is that this drug is commonly prescribed for long term use. If someone enjoys a drink every now and again, there is no problem in leaving alcohol alone for a few weeks while on a drug that doesn't interact well with booze.

Acyclovir is different is scheduled long term because people who tend to drink will usually do so given time. That is where the risk could come into play.

Terrificli

Interesting discussion because every drug I have ever taken that doesn't interact well with alcohol has had a warning label on the bottle advising against drinking while taking that medicine. That has never been a big deal, really. Just don't drink while on the medicine and you should be fine. Why risk it?

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    • Drinking alcohol with acyclovir can lead to an increase in the severity of side effects.
      Drinking alcohol with acyclovir can lead to an increase in the severity of side effects.
    • Taking acyclovir and alcohol may damage the liver and kidneys.
      Taking acyclovir and alcohol may damage the liver and kidneys.
    • Light, social drinking may be safe when taking acyclovir.
      Light, social drinking may be safe when taking acyclovir.
    • Dizziness may occur in people who combine acyclovir and alcohol.
      Dizziness may occur in people who combine acyclovir and alcohol.
    • Acyclovir is often used to treat outbreaks of shingles.
      Acyclovir is often used to treat outbreaks of shingles.
    • People who drink while on acyclovir may experience drowsiness.
      People who drink while on acyclovir may experience drowsiness.
    • Acyclovir may be used to treat chickenpox.
      Acyclovir may be used to treat chickenpox.
    • Topical acyclovir may be safer to combine with alcohol when undergoing treatment for oral herpes.
      Topical acyclovir may be safer to combine with alcohol when undergoing treatment for oral herpes.