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Is It Safe to Combine Clindamycin and Alcohol?

By Karize Uy
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Generally speaking, combining clindamycin and alcohol does not usually pose severe health risks. Physicians, however, still advise patients to avoid drinking alcohol when they are prescribed clindamycin, since the interaction between the two may worsen the side effects associated with either the alcohol or clindamycin. Mixing clindamycin and alcohol can also reduce the efficacy of the medication, making a patient’s illness or condition harder to treat. Drinking alcohol is advised against not only when taking clindamycin, but also with most medications.

Clindamycin is a type of medication labeled as an “antibiotic” and helps fight off and kill the bacteria that can cause infections usually in the respiratory and digestive system. It is also commonly prescribed to patients suffering from acne, malaria, and infection in the bone, but is usually combined with other drugs or chemicals. Clindamycin operates in the body by binding itself to the bacteria’s ribosome and preventing the proteins from multiplying. When the bacterial population is controlled, the body’s own immune system finishes the job by eliminating the bacteria altogether.

One of the reasons why clindamycin and alcohol should not be combined is that both are absorbed quickly by the digestive system and into bloodstream. Alcohol is considered a “downer” or a “depressant” that slows down the activity of any body part that absorbs it. This means that the body may take a longer time to absorb the clindamycin; there may even be cases when the medication is flushed out of the body without getting absorbed at all. In some cases, the alcohol, especially when drank in large amounts, would use up more enzymes to metabolize and flush it out of the system, leaving very little enzymes to work on the clindamycin. As a result, the medication may stay inside the system for a prolonged period, and can cause severe symptoms or even poisoning.

Another reason why combining clindamycin and alcohol is advised against is that both of them can exhibit similar symptoms that can include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and an upset stomach. When both the medication and the alcohol are inside the body’s system, the severity of the symptoms can be twice as bad. In some cases, the liver can also suffer because the alcohol can trigger some enzymes to actually turn the clindamycin into poison. Alcohol is also known to weaken the body’s immune system, so even when the clindamycin does its job of inhibiting the growth of the bacteria, the immune system cannot function effectively in killing the bacteria. If one cannot avoid combining clindamycin and alcohol, he should only drink the latter in moderation.

When Is Clindamycin Prescribed?

As mentioned, clindamycin is an antibiotic. But it doesn’t work for colds, flu, and other viral infections, so you should only use it when your doctor prescribes it. 

Clindamycin is for some types of bacterial infections, not most viral infections. Some of these infections include those of the lungs, blood, female reproductive organs, and other internal organs. Doctors will often prescribe clindamycin when the patient has an allergic reaction to penicillin, which is the more common antibiotic prescription for bacterial infections. 

Clindamycin is classified as a lincomycin antibiotic. It aims to stop the growth of harmful bacteria in the body. 

Mild Side Effects of Clindamycin

While the side effects of this antibiotic can worsen when combined with alcohol, the medication often causes side effects anyway. If you’ve been prescribed clindamycin, your doctor probably warned you about the following side effects. But just in case, below are symptoms to look out for when taking the medication. 

Nausea and Vomiting 

This side effect is the most increased when combined with alcohol, as drinking and antibiotics can make you nauseous, even causing you to vomit. But if you vomit on the medication alone, this is normal and not a serious cause for concern. 

Metallic Taste

Many people experience a funny metallic taste or another gross flavor in their mouth shortly after taking the medication. This symptom usually occurs within the first two hours after taking the dose and should fade after about an hour. Many report brushing their teeth when the taste occurs can help eliminate the bad flavor. 

Joint Pain

People on clindamycin often report experiencing minor joint pain after a few days of taking the medication. However, this is not super common, typically occurring in people who already have joint or bone problems and in older patients. 

Trouble Swallowing

Clindamycin can often cause dryness and discomfort in the mouth and throat. This issue is one of the more unpleasant side effects but is not uncommon. You may experience this throughout the day or just after the medication absorbs into your body. 


Another annoying side effect, heartburn is not very serious. If you get heartburn shortly after taking the medication, this is extremely common, and you can take anti-acid medications to try and combat that discomfort. 

Oral White Patches

People on the medication may notice small white patches in their mouth, similar to what strep throat looks like. This side effect can be alarming but is also not a cause for concern as many patients on the medication experience it. 

Vaginal Discomfort

Clindamycin can cause vaginal discomfort, like burning, itching, and swelling for women. It can also cause a thick, white vaginal discharge that the patient does not consider normal for their body. These are some of the expected side effects, especially if the bacterial infection is in the female reproductive organs. 

Severe Side Effects of Clindamycin

Clindamycin comes with some uncomfortable and unpleasant side effects. The side effects listed above are no reason for alarm, as most patients experience one or more of them. However, clindamycin can cause severe side effects that are not normal. 

Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the side effects below. 

Skin Problems

If you notice new and unusual skin problems when you begin the medication, this can indicate an allergic reaction to the clindamycin. For example, if your skin peels, blisters, itches, or you develop hives or a rash, you should stop the medication and see your doctor. 

Difficulty Breathing

If you have difficulty breathing and the sensation of not being able to swallow persists or gets worse, this may be a problem. While trouble swallowing can be common, it should not be painful or constant. If your voice becomes hoarse because of this, contact your doctor. 

Yellow Discoloration

If you notice the whites of your eyes yellowing or your skin taking on a yellow hue, your liver and kidneys may be having a bad reaction to the medication. Stop your regimen and contact your doctor immediately. 

Problems Urinating

Antibiotics should not cause urination problems. However, if you seem to urinate far less frequently or have trouble urinating, it may be due to the clindamycin and could be an adverse reaction relating to your kidneys or bladder. 


If your face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs begin to swell or become sore, you may be allergic to the medication and should call your doctor.

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.
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Discussion Comments
By anon955694 — On Jun 09, 2014

They gave it to me for a burn on my leg from a motorcycle. It's nasty.

By Jetlife007 — On Jan 27, 2014

@SteamLouis: What were you taking it for and also how long was your course? I am on the third day for a UTI and plan on drinking two beers tonight (24oz). I also plan to drink lots of water and vitamin C.

By SteamLouis — On Aug 26, 2013
I combined clindamycin and alcohol once. I don't know if the alcohol made the antibiotic ineffective, but it really made the side effects worse. I had an upset stomach and diarrhea the entire night and the next day. It was not fun...I'm definitely not going to do that again.
By bear78 — On Aug 26, 2013

@turquoise-- I think clindamycin belongs to the latter category. You're probably going to be okay if you have a beer or two at most. But try to leave a long time between your dose and the alcohol and don't do this everyday.

There are many different types of antibiotics and it really is dangerous to mix certain antibiotics with alcohol. It can be difficult to keep track of what interacts with what. As a general rule, I personally avoid alcohol while I'm on antibiotics. It doesn't matter which type it is. Most antibiotic treatments last 7-10 days at most. I can wait until the treatment is over to drink, so that's what I do.

If you absolutely don't have to drink (I don't know why you would have to anyway), just pass up on alcohol until your treatment is over.

By turquoise — On Aug 25, 2013

I'm on clindamycin for an infection and my doctor said that it's best to avoid alcohol. But when doctors say that, it usually means one of two things. Either it's absolutely not safe to mix the drug with alcohol, or it's okay to have a few drinks as long as I don't go crazy with it. So which applies to clindamycin?

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