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Is It Safe to Combine Clarithromycin and Alcohol?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There is no specific recommendation against combining clarithromycin and alcohol, although patients may want to avoid excessive drinking as a general medical precaution. While some medications can interact with alcohol to metabolize at different rates, this is not among them; social drinking shouldn’t cause any additional health risks while taking clarithromycin. Patients who notice a bad reaction when they take clarithromycin with alcohol can discuss it with a doctor to determine if they should stop drinking for the duration of treatment. It may also be explained by another interaction, like a different medication that interferes with the action of the antibiotic.

Studies on clarithromycin and alcohol show no sign of adverse interactions between the two. The medication should remain effective, with appropriate concentration levels in the body, and will be excreted normally. One potential issue is that this antibiotic has a history of mild interaction with grapefruit juice, which can disrupt metabolism. People who drink cocktails with grapefruit juice could potentially experience a problem and may want to avoid grapefruit products as long as they are on clarithromycin.

Patients shouldn’t skip a dose of this antibiotic because they’ve had something to drink, since it’s important to keep the levels in the body as consistent as possible and there's no immediate risk with combining clarithromycin and alcohol. People should try to take their doses around the same time each day, and it can help to carry a pill box to make sure it will be available at the right time. If a patient vomits after taking clarithromycin, a doctor or pharmacist can provide information on whether to repeat the dose or wait until the next one, based on how long it’s been and what the patient had to eat. It may have metabolized enough that the patient got the benefit of the dose and taking another could result in an overdose.

Excessive drinking can be a problem not necessarily because there’s a specific issue with clarithromycin and alcohol but because it is linked with other health issues. Patients who drink heavily and have trouble controlling alcohol intake can be at risk of complications including injuries as a result of poor decisions, malnutrition, and liver damage. People who are not sure about whether they have a drinking problem can use a self-assessment tool or talk to a doctor to learn more. A health care provider can also offer advice and information on drinking cessation options.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

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

Discussion Comments
By anon994653 — On Feb 25, 2016

Actually, it should be fine in moderation; in fact I just finished reading the results from a National Institute of Health study (available on their website ) on the effects of drinking while taking antibiotics to treat stomach ulcers.

They gave 160 patients 500mg of Clarithromycin and 1000mg of amoxicillin per day for a week, and found that those who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol during that period showed a positive result from treatment of 88%, compared with only 71 percent for those abstaining.

They concluded that not only was moderate alcohol use with those antibiotics safe, it actually improved treatment outcomes by 17 percent over the medications alone.

By anon949898 — On May 07, 2014

I've just been put on these straight after being on amoxicillin. I have a bad ear infection. I'm going away with the girls for a weekend. Would I be safe to drink alcohol? I know it's best not to, but am I safe too after being on two lots? I'm 24. I'm not aware of any problems with my liver, and I think I'm otherwise healthy

By turquoise — On Oct 08, 2012

@fBoyle-- I don't agree with you. Some antibiotics are more risky to mix with alcohol, but clarithromycin is not one of them. Also, doctors have to make sure that the patient doesn't have a history of liver problems before prescribing them these kinds of medications.

The chances of someone having serious complications from mixing alcohol and clarithromycin is slim.

By fBoyle — On Oct 07, 2012

@burcinc-- I actually think that you did the right thing. I'm not a doctor but I agree that it's not a good idea to mix any antibiotic with alcohol simply because they're both metabolized in the liver.

Yes, having a couple of drinks while on clarithromycin won't cause problems for most people but that's because they have a healthy liver. But if someone has liver dysfunction and isn't aware of it (which is not rare), mixing two different things that have to be metabolized by the liver at the same time can be dangerous. You're basically putting too much pressure on the liver and if it is already damaged, this can be the last straw, so to speak.

Plus, most people are on this medication for only a few days, a week at most. So what if you stay away from alcohol during treatment? It's not a big deal and it's safer. So I'm glad you chose not to drink while on clarithromycin.

By burcinc — On Oct 06, 2012

Oh, I didn't know that it's okay to combine clarithromycin and alcohol. I was on this medication on my birthday and didn't drink because I thought it would mess up my treatment. Now I regret it, I should have had a couple of drinks and enjoyed myself.

Why do they say that it's not a good idea to mix antibiotics and alcohol then?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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