Mixing Aspirin and Alcohol

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Aspirin is a common drug many people use when dealing with aches and pains associated with a headache, toothache, muscle pain, or mild injury. A doctor may also instruct people at risk for heart disease to take a small dose of aspirin every day to prevent diseases such as heart attack or stroke

Aspirin is an over-the-counter drug that most people would consider safe. Aspirin also isn’t well known to have possible side effects when taken on its own. However, if a person is mixing aspirin with alcohol, especially those with an alcohol-use disorder, it is essential to understand the risks associated with combining these two substances.  

Continue reading to learn more about how aspirin and alcohol interact, the combination’s side effects, and how you can begin to take steps toward wellness. 

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Side Effects of Mixing Aspirin and Alcohol

Not only do aspirin and alcohol have adverse side effects if combined, but it is also dangerous to use large amounts of alcohol or aspirin on its own. The toxicity of each substance can lead to severe consequences. If high doses are used consistently, alcohol and aspirin can lead to liver damage, potentially increase the risk of liver disease, and may lead to internal bleeding. 

Common Symptoms of Aspirin & Alcohol Combined:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Ulcers.
  • Heartburn.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • Increased toxicity of both aspirin and alcohol. 
  • Increased risk of liver damage. 

Increased Toxicity of Alcohol and Aspirin

You may wonder why toxicity occurs with using alcohol and aspirin. To understand this, we need to look at how the liver plays a role in this process. The liver regulates most chemical levels in the blood and excretes the waste called bile. All the blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver. The liver processes this blood, breaks down substances, balances and creates the nutrients, and metabolizes drugs into forms that are easier to use for the rest of the body.

When the liver has to process drugs such as alcohol or aspirin, it can put more strain on the liver to remove the toxins. So as you can imagine, combining two harmful substances increases the amount of stress on the liver when processing additional chemicals. Having additional toxins in the body can lead to increased toxicity. Increased toxicity means alcohol enters your bloodstream faster, making you impaired more quickly. 

Additional Risks of Increased Toxicity:

  • Problems operating a vehicle as one’s blood alcohol content is higher at a much quicker rate if you didn’t take aspirin. 
  • Increased risk of overdose.
  • Increased sleepiness, tiredness, lightheadedness, and difficulty breathing. 

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, people who took 2 extra strength aspirin tablets an hour before drinking had blood alcohol levels 30% higher than when they drank alcohol alone. 

Understanding the risks and dangers associated with mixing aspirin and alcohol is imperative. Many people may think taking aspirin before drinking alcohol may prevent a headache from drinking alcohol in excess. However, this strategy will most likely backfire due to the increased toxicity levels of both substances.

Increased Risk of Internal Bleeding

Alcohol and aspirin are known as blood thinners. When you are taking substances to help thin your blood, it is less likely to thicken, which makes it more difficult for blood clots to form. Blood thinners can be dangerous because of an increased risk of severe bleeding during an accident or injury. 

Additionally, when using alcohol and aspirin, one is at a greater likelihood of experiencing internal bleeding. Both alcohol and aspirin use can cause peptic ulcers, leading to pain, irritation, and bleeding. 

One study concluded that a person who drank more than 5 drinks each day had 6.3 times more significant risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. 

Signs of possible gastrointestinal bleeding include black tarry stool, bright red blood in vomit, cramps in abdomen, dark or bright red in stool, dizziness, tiredness, shortness of breath, vomit that looks like coffee grounds

You should seek medical attention immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. Although gastrointestinal bleeding is treatable if detected early, it can lead to severe complications and is life-threatening if ignored.

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Increased Risk of Liver Damage

It is already well known that aspirin and alcohol use over time can damage the liver. Combining both substances to excess increases the risk of liver damage and chronic liver disease if not treated. 

Why do these substances impact the liver? Because it is the liver’s job to flush out toxins before entering the bloodstream. When we chronically use alcohol and other substances like aspirin in excess, we put the liver in overdrive by trying to clean out the additional toxins from our system.  

This overuse of the liver leads to damage and possible disease if long-term issues continue over time. 

There are signs and symptoms to look for possible liver damage or disease. The sooner you can diagnose liver damage, the more quickly you can receive treatment and have a better chance of making a full recovery. 

Common Signs of Liver Damage:

  • Significant fatigue and exhaustion.
  • Unexplained weight loss and lack of appetite.
  • Nausea and vomiting. 
  • Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. 

Reversing liver damage is not always possible; however, if you notice signs of potential liver damage, there may be ways to reduce the symptoms if you seek treatment early. According to the American Liver Foundation, abstaining from alcohol is the most effective approach to reversing or reducing liver disease progression. 

Does Dosing Size Matter?

People prescribed aspirin to reduce the risk of heart disease are often prescribed a low dose of aspirin daily, also known as “baby aspirin.” Although this dose is minimal and associated with less risk than full-strength aspirin, mixing alcohol and any size dose is not advised. 

Those who mix alcohol and aspirin risk developing the adverse side effects noted. People with no predisposition to gastrointestinal bleeding are still at risk of internal bleeding if they mix these substances. 

There is no recommended time at which someone should take aspirin before they drink alcohol. Research has shown that taking aspirin an hour before drinking alcohol will increase your blood alcohol content. If one must take aspirin, it would be best to avoid drinking alcohol entirely or take aspirin early in the morning to prevent contraindication. 

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Contact us today if you are concerned about your health due to alcohol-use dependence. Living with chronic heart or liver disease can be overwhelming. You don’t have to wait for your health to decline to prioritize your wellness. Focusing on recovery can improve health, repair relationships, and for many people, change their lives for the better.  

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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.

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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:

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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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