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Bactrim DS and Alcohol Interaction: Can You Drink Alcohol with Bactrim?


Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 2/01/2023

Bactrim DS specifically refers to the double-strength formula of this medication which contains 800mg of sulfamethoxazole and 160mg of trimethoprim. However, there is also a standard version of this medication available that is less concentrated. Even though the standard version is less concentrated, it still poses a risk for dangerous interactions with alcohol.

Bactrim DS is a medication consisting of two antibiotics – sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim – used to treat bacterial infections such as middle ear, urinary, respiratory and intestinal infections. It can also help to prevent some types of pneumonia. This medication only works on bacterial infections as opposed to viral infections such as the flu or common cold.

The most common dosage of Bactrim DS is 1-2 tablets every 6 or 12 hours depending on your doctor’s recommendation and the illness being treated.

The medication should be taken by mouth with a full glass of water and/or food. It is encouraged to drink plenty of fluids while on this medication as it poses a higher risk for kidney stones.

What are the Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Bactrim DS?

The symptoms listed below will generally begin to appear five to fifteen minutes after alcohol consumption while taking Bactrim.

  1. Flushing
  2. Headaches
  3. Rapid heart rate
  4. Difficulty breathing
  5. Nausea and vomiting

1. Flushing

Flushing is when the face becomes red, much like when blushing, and your face will begin to feel warm. It is an involuntary response of the nervous system that is generally associated with other symptoms such as fever or anxiety. Flushing is an extremely common side effect with Alcohol and Bactrim being mixed as it causes the capillaries to widen closer to the surface of the skin.

2. Headaches

Headaches occur as a result of flushing and the combination of alcohol and Bactrim. This combination results in this side effect because blood rushes to the brain and other parts of the body. Alcohol is also known to produce headaches and Bactrim.

3. Difficulty Breathing

Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, especially when it comes on suddenly, should be treated as a medical emergency. The first sign of this is generally a feeling of tightness in the chest, or that you are having trouble comfortably getting a full breath.

4. Rapid Heart Rate

Rapid heart rate, also referred to as Tachycardia, refers to a heart rate over 100 beats per minute. Over short periods an increased heart rate is unlikely to cause any major symptoms or complications. Over an extended period, a rapid heart rate can lead to more serious problems such as heart failure, stroke, or sudden cardiac death. Raid heart rate can also cause additional unpleasant symptoms such as chest pain, fainting, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath.

5. Nausea and Vomiting

Flushing, headaches, nausea, and vomiting are side effects of both alcohol and Bactrim separately, meaning that when the two drugs are combined these side effects may be amplified. When alcohol and Bactrim are mixed it can become difficult to distinguish which drug is causing the side effect as well as the severity of it.

Additional side effects of Bactrim DS can include a loss of appetite, diarrhea, muscle weakness, kidney problems, drowsiness, shaking, and possibly even seizures.

Symptoms such as loss of appetite can result in lower food consumption, making it harder for your body to absorb alcohol before it is passed into the bloodstream, thus resulting in a higher blood alcohol content (BAC). Additionally, as alcohol is a dehydrator, side effects such as kidney problems may become more prevalent and diarrhea may have more dire consequences.

Does Alcohol Reduce Effectiveness of Bactrim DS?

While alcohol does not inherently reduce the effectiveness of Bactrim DS, it has the potential to cause the antibiotic to be less effective in the short term, meaning it may delay your body’s ability to recover from the illness you are experiencing.

Does Bactrim Affect the Taste of Alcohol?

There is no evidence to suggest that Bactrim affects the taste of alcohol, however, there is a chance that the medication can leave a slight aftertaste that will go away over time. The aftertaste caused by bactrim will only last for a few moments. Alcohol will taste normal again once the bactrim leaves your mouth. When the aftertaste doesn’t go away this may be a sign of a more significant problem.

Can Mixture of Alcohol and Bactrim Lead to Death?

Yes, the mixture of alcohol and Bactrim can lead to death. Mixing alcohol and Bactrim can lead to serious side effects such as increased heart rate and trouble breathing which may be hard to identify when combined with the effects of alcohol. Additionally, the combination of alcohol and Bactrim can create a build-up of acetaldehyde in the body, leading to toxicity.

In the case of toxicity or overdose the symptoms may appear as the ones listed below.

  • Severe nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Severe dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Sudden mental or mood changes.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please seek medical attention immediately. Unfortunately, alcohol-related death will occur when Bactrim and alcohol are abused.

Who Should not Take Alcohol and Bactrim?

While no one should be mixing alcohol and Bactrim, some pre-existing conditions can put you at higher risk of adverse side effects, and possibly even death. People with the symptoms listed below should not mix Bactrim and alcohol.

  • Known allergies to sulfa medications or trimethoprim
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Blood disorders (such as anemia)
  • Vitamin deficiency (specifically Folate or Folic acid)
  • Asthma
  • Underactive Thyroid
  • Diabetes
  • Those who are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding (fetal alcohol syndrome)

Additionally, there is a chance that this medication can reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, so please let your health care provider know if you have recently received or plan to receive a vaccine.

Are all Types of Alcohol Harmful with Bactrim?

Yes, all types of alcohol can be harmful with Bactrim and should be avoided while taking this medication due to the chance of severe side effects. The recommended daily intake of alcohol, when drinking in moderation, is described as 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men. One alcoholic drink is considered to be either 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

How Much Bactrim can be Dangerous to Take with Alcohol?

Any amount of alcohol can be dangerous to take with Bactrim, due to the production of acetaldehyde, which is a byproduct created as the body breaks down alcohol. Bactrim can prevent the enzyme that is capable of breaking down acetaldehyde from working and can lead to a build-up of it in the system, and possibly even toxicity.

It is recommended that you wait a week after finishing a course of Bactrim before drinking to ensure that it is out of your system.

Does Alcohol Affect How Well Bactrim will Work?

While alcohol does not necessarily affect how well Bactrim will work, however, the two main components of Bactrim (sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim) are known to take a harder toll on the liver. In general, when the liver is faced with medication and alcohol at the same time it will prioritize metabolizing the alcohol first, which could result in a delay of the medication being metabolized, or a build-up of the medication within the system which can lead to toxicity.

What Are Other Drugs That Are Dangerous To Use with Alcohol?

While many drugs have the potential to become dangerous when mixed with alcohol, some of the most dangerous drugs to use with alcohol are listed below.

Please keep in mind that any drug has the chance to become dangerous when mixed or used incorrectly with alcohol and you should always speak to your healthcare professional before attempting to drink alcohol while on any medication.