Antibiotics are a common medication that may be prescribed for many reasons, and doxycycline is a common antibiotic.
If you have been prescribed doxycycline and you’re wondering whether it’s still okay to drink alcohol over the course of your treatment, you should know that most medical advice considers it unwise to mix alcohol and antibiotics.
However, you may not know why this advice is commonly given, or what could happen if you ignore it.
Learn more about why you should avoid alcohol while taking doxycycline, what happens if you drink on doxycycline, and when you can start drinking again after finishing a course of doxycycline.
What is Doxycycline?
Doxycycline is a tetracycline-class antibiotic.
It is broad-spectrum and used for treating many types of infections.
Your doctor may prescribe doxycycline for many different reasons.
It is sold under many different brand names, including Avidoxy, Acticlate, Doryx, Morgidox, and others.
The FDA has authorized the use of doxycycline for a number of conditions.
The most common reasons it is prescribed include:
- Acne, including severe acne/acne vulgaris
- Urinary tract infections
- Sexually transmitted infections, including chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, and others
- Bacterial respiratory infections, like sinusitis
- Bacterial eye infections
- Malaria prevention and treatment
- Lyme disease prevention and treatment
- Anthrax exposure
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Periodontitis (gum disease)
Why You Should Avoid Alcohol While Taking Doxycycline
Most providers and common medical advice you read will recommend avoiding alcohol while taking antibiotics.
What happens when you drink on doxycycline
Alcohol metabolizes differently in the body than food.
Because of this, it may interfere with how your medication absorbs or is used by the body.
In the case of doxycycline, alcohol can cause doxycycline to be cleared from the body more quickly.
When you are not getting the full treatment coverage of your antibiotics, your bacterial infection may not resolve as expected.
When you eat food, your body breaks it down in a normal digestive process.
But when you drink alcohol, no matter what else you have eaten or what other things your body is dealing with (like an infection), the metabolism of alcohol takes precedence.
Your body cannot store alcohol like it can food.
Your liver function and metabolic energies go to breaking down alcohol, and because of this, your immune system and healing processes get put on hold.
Alcohol consumption can even affect how well you sleep, and if you’re fighting an infection, this can add to the reasons why alcohol may interfere with your treatment plan.
Drinking alcohol can also decrease how effective your doxycycline is, or render the dose you’ve been given too low to work.
This could result in failed or prolonged treatment. Regular alcohol consumption may actually cause your body to need a higher dose than those who don’t drink alcohol at all.
How alcohol impacts your immune system
Alcohol can change the way your immune system responds.
In your lungs, it can decrease your body’s natural defenses and allow respiratory infections to occur.
In the gut, it can lead to inflammation and changes to the gut bacteria that may decrease your natural immunity and lead to more frequent infections.
If you are already ill with a virus, for example, it is easier to end up with a more severe infection or a secondary bacterial infection.
If you have been prescribed antibiotics, they may have an impact on your immune system, too, since they can destroy your body’s good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria that is causing your problems.
This can weaken your body’s response to antibiotics and lead to increased complications.
When you have a few drinks here or there, the effect is not as noticeable as if you regularly consume alcoholic beverages.
Frequent alcohol intake can alter how the immune system reacts to threats, increasing the risk for potential infection-related complications.
These could include higher risks for:
- Acute respiratory syndromes
- Alcoholic liver disease
- Certain types of cancer
- Postoperative complications
- Slower healing from trauma, wounds, and infections
Mixing alcohol and antibiotics
Because it is hard to know exactly how your immune system responds to the combination of alcohol and doxycycline, the safest way to manage your infection or treatment plan is to avoid mixing the two.
The type of alcohol you consume and the amount can also lead to variables that make it difficult for a pharmacist or health care provider to safely say it’s okay to have a single drink.
How Long After Stopping Doxycycline Can I Drink Alcohol?
Most medical or pharmacological advice says that it’s safe to consume alcohol after it has been 48-72 hours since your last dose of doxycycline.
However, you should find out from your health care provider directly since the reason you were prescribed doxycycline, your dose, and other health factors may influence the answer for you.
It’s important to wait long enough after finishing doxycycline so that you do not experience a drug-alcohol interaction or render your last dose of antibiotics ineffective.
What Else Should I Avoid While Taking Doxycycline?
Your specific prescription label insert will tell you what not to do while taking doxycycline.
Generally, you should avoid taking doxycycline with dairy products or alcohol, since these can change the way your medication absorbs.
Dairy products may be taken a few hours before or a few hours after your dose.
You should wait to consume alcohol again until you have finished taking your entire course of doxycycline and your doctor has cleared you to drink.
You should also avoid sun exposure since doxycycline can increase the risk of a severe sunburn.
Tanning beds should be avoided, too.
Doxycycline can interact with other medications.
Do not consume these medications, including OTC drugs or supplements, unless your doctor or pharmacist approves:
- Anticoagulants (blood thinners)
- Iron supplements (and multivitamins that contain iron)
- Magnesium supplements (and multivitamins that contain magnesium)
- Oral contraceptives, since doxycycline can render them less effective
There may be other potential interactions, so always keep your medical provider up to date with anything you are taking.
Potential Side Effects Doxycycline
Doxycycline, like many other antibiotics, may have some common side effects.
These can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Rectal or vaginal itching
- Sore throat
- Swollen tongue
- Dry mouth
- Back pain
- Changes to the color of skin, scars, nails, eyes, or mouth
Because some of these symptoms can also occur after alcohol consumption, it’s also not a good idea to mix the two.
You need to be able to tell how your antibiotic is affecting you.
In rarer cases, doxycycline may cause more severe side effects, which you should let your doctor know about. These can include:
- Headache, blurred vision, or vision loss (known as intracranial hypertension)
- Hives, rash, or other allergic reactions
- Skin redness, blistering, or peeling
- Swollen glands
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing or other allergic reactions
- Swelling of the eyes, lips, throat, tongue, or face
- Unusual bleeding or bruising
- Changes to bowel movements, including watery or bloody stools
- Stomach cramps
- Joint pain
- Chest pain
- Discoloration of permanent teeth
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
The sleep-immune crosstalk in health and disease. (2019).
Fact versus fiction: a review of the evidence behind alcohol and antibiotic interactions.
Alcohol and the immune system. (2015).