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Mixing Alcohol and Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)

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Benadryl, also known as Diphenhydramine, is a medication used to treat symptoms such as watery eyes, itchiness, sneezing, runny nose, hay fever, allergies, and the common cold. Benadryl can also be used to relieve insomnia, motion sickness, and abnormal movements associated with early Parkinson’s disease. Benadryl is within the antihistamine medication class group, which block substances in the body that cause allergy symptoms, known as histamines (1).

Benadryl can be found over the counter or may be prescribed by a physician. Benadryl should only be used as prescribed, and should not be used in conjunction with certain medications, to avoid negative side effects or symptoms. The informational label provided with Benadryl explicitly states to avoid alcoholic beverages when taking Benadryl as it may increase drowsiness. Mixing alcohol and Benadryl can cause other potentially harmful effects. If you’ve recently been prescribed Benadryl, and often engage in excessive alcohol use, it may be difficult to discontinue your alcohol consumption for your new medication. If you have been struggling with excessive alcohol use, you may be experiencing alcohol use disorder. Contact us today to learn more about alcohol use disorder and the treatment that we offer. (2)

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Side Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Diphenhydramine

Mixing Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) with substances, such as alcohol, can cause dangerous side effects. The combination of these two substances causes the central nervous system in the body to decelerate, removing its normal functionalities and abilities. Alcohol is also known to be a central nervous system depressant. (3) Mixing two substances that naturally slow down the central nervous system can be hazardous. The central nervous system contains the brain and the spinal cord, which controls walking, speech, breathing, reflexes, emotions, and cognition (4). With the central nervous system impared, drowsiness, fatigue, and poor concentration may occur, while speech may be slurred. (5) Learning and memory may also be impaired when alcohol and Benadryl are mixed.

Extreme Sedation

One of the main side effects of mixing alcohol and Benadryl is extreme sedation. Sedation can be so extreme that many individuals may lose consciousness and become unaware of their surroundings. Once in a state of extreme sedation, reaction times decrease and completing day-to-day functions can become difficult. The likelihood of falls, injuries, or other dangerous accidents increases once an individual becomes unconscious.

Overdose

Both alcohol and Benadryl have their own risk of overdose when used separately. Due to the heightened effects caused by using alcohol and Benadryl in combination, overdose is likely when using these substances simultaneously. Hospitalization may be necessary if you are experiencing a suspected overdose from alcohol, Benadryl, or a combination of both.

Risks for Seniors

Seniors, or those 62 years old or older, may experience greater risks when consuming medications. As the body ages, its ability to break down alcohol decreases. In seniors, alcohol can stay in the system for longer periods of time when compared to those under the age of 62. With sedation and motor inabilities, risk of falling and injuries in seniors is high when alcohol and Benadryl are combined.

Normal Side Effects of Benadryl

Common side effects of Benadryl include dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, loss of appetite, headache, nervousness, and muscle weakness. (6) Even without the added effects of alcohol, these side effects can lead to significant impairment, especially when handling machinery of automotive vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that Benadryl causes more difficulty steering and maintaining a safe distance than alcohol use. (7) In seniors, long-term use of Benadryl has been found to cause dementia. (8)

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Why People Mix Alcohol & Diphenhydramine

Due to Benadryl’s natural side effect of drowsiness, individuals often believe that it is helpful as a sleeping aid, even when they are not experiencing any symptoms associated with sickness. Though sleep may be the goal, using Benadryl as a sleeping aid may cause symptoms such as hyperactivity, especially if used in children. Benadryl tolerance can be easily developed when the medication is improperly used as a sleeping aid, ultimately providing no long-term sleep benefits. (9) Some individuals also believe that alcohol can aid with insomnia, although it has been proven to be linked to poor sleep quality. (10) Though it may seem tempting to mix alcohol and Benadryl as a sleeping aid, there are no proven benefits to this and your chances of overdose increases.

Risk of Overdose

When taken separately, Benadryl and alcohol can lead to overdose. When taken in large amounts, Benadryl can cause psychosis, coma, and even death, with 3.2% of overdoses in the U.S. being caused by Benedryal. (11) Unfortunately, Benadryl overdoses are often found in those ages 6 or younger. (12) Alcohol overdose or alcohol poisoning can be caused by binge drinking or consuming too much alcohol too quickly. Alcohol poisoning can lead to loss of memory, gaps in memory, and death. (13) 95,000 individuals die yearly due to alcohol poisoning. (14)

Dehydration is also a concern when combining alcohol and Benadryl. (15) With 75% of Americans already chronically dehydrated, including the combination of alcohol and Benadryl could increase the risk of overdose. (16)

Medications Interactions

Just as alcohol and Benadryl can have adverse effects when combined, other medications can also interact negatively with alcohol, Benadryl, or both. (17) These medications include:

  • Other antihistamines
  • Antidepressants
  • Sedatives
  • Cold and cough medications

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning or Benadryl Overdose

If ingesting either alcohol or Benadryl, it is important to know the signs of an overdose or poisoning in order to proceed with the correct steps. Signs of alcohol poisoning or Benadryl overdose include:

  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Irregular Heart Beats
  • Painful or difficult urinations

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Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder & Benadryl

Mixing alcohol and Benadryl can cause harmful interactions, side effects, and even overdose. It is important to only take Benadryl as prescribed, and to follow the label informing individuals not to drink alcohol while using the medication.

Here at Guardian Recovery, we are committed to helping those who believe that they may be experiencing substance use disorders. We provide comprehensive treatment and detoxification to help those wanting to begin their sobriety journey. With substance use disorders and mental health disorders often co-occurring, Guardian Recovery provides dual diagnosis treatment in order to provide individuals with medical and holistic options. (18) During your informational call, you will receive a free, no obligation health insurance benefits check. (19) We provide evidence-based, individualized care to aid you during your road to recovery. (20) Contact us if you suspect that you, or a loved one, may be experiencing alcohol use disorder, Benadryl dependance, or other substance use disorders.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://www.drugs.com/drug-class/antihistamines.html
  2. https://guardianrecovery.com/contact/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26466222/
  4. https://www.britannica.com/science/central-nervous-system
  5. https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(96)80117-5/fulltext#:~:text=The%20risk%20of%20central%20nervous,%2C%20and%20muscarinic%2Dcholinergic%20pathways.
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526010/
  7. https://www.wsp.wa.gov/breathtest/docs/webdms/DRE_Forms/Publications/drug/Human_Performance_Drug_Fact_Sheets-NHTSA.pdf
  8. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/common-anticholinergic-drugs-like-benadryl-linked-increased-dementia-risk-201501287667
  9. https://www.bcm.edu/news/experts-warn-against-antihistmaines-sleep-aid#:~:text=While%20antihistamines%20may%20help%20you,term%20benefit%2C%E2%80%9D%20Alapat%20said.
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6801087/#R3
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557578/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557578/
  13. https://www.iodine.com/fact-sheets/benadryl.pdf
  14. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-dangers-of-alcohol-overdose#:~:text=Symptoms%20of%20alcohol%20overdose%20include,permanent%20brain%20damage%20or%20death
  15. https://drugabusestatistics.org/alcohol-related-deaths/#:~:text=Death%20due%20to%20Alcohol%20Poisoning&text=2%2C200%20people%20die%20from%20alcohol,ages%20of%2035%20and%2064.
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555956/
  17. https://www.drugs.com/drug-interactions/diphenhydramine,benadryl.html
  18. https://guardianrecovery.com/addiction-treatment/dual-diagnosis/
  19. https://guardianrecovery.com/addiction-treatment/admissions-and-insurance/#insurance
  20. https://guardianrecovery.com/addiction-treatment/individual-focus/

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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