Bactrim and Alcohol: Can You Drink While Taking Bactrim?

Bactrim, also known as co-trimoxazole, is a combination of two antibiotics: sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim. It is used to treat various bacterial infections, including those of the urinary tract, intestines, and lungs such as pneumonia. It is also used to treat 'travelers' diarrhea. Similarly to other antibiotics, Bactrim works by stopping the growth of bacteria. It is natural to wonder whether you can drink alcohol while taking Bactrim. In this blog post, we will analyze the dangers of mixing Bactrim and alcohol, and look at the interactions between sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim and alcohol.
Frederika Malichová

Frederika Malichová

Neuroscientist at the University Of Cambridge.

An Image of Alcohol and Bactrim.

Can I Drink Alcohol While Taking Bactrim?

To find out whether drinking on Bactrim is safe, we need to find out if there are any interactions between alcohol and sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim (Bactrim).

We can simply ask MediSearch to get a direct answer, based on scientific studies.

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Even though there are no known interactions between alcohol and Bactrim, drinking alcohol while taking Bactrim (a combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole) is not recommended.

Bactrim can cause side effects such as nausea and vomiting, which could be exacerbated by alcohol consumption [1].

Additionally, Bactrim has been associated with significant liver damage in some cases, which could potentially be worsened by alcohol, a known hepatotoxin [2,3]. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid drinking alcohol while taking Bactrim.

However, it is important to note that this is not the case for all antibiotics.

What is Bactrim?

Bactrim, also known as co-trimoxazole, is a combination of two antibiotics: sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim.

It is used to treat various bacterial infections, including those of the intestine, lungs (pneumonia), and urinary tract. It is also used to treat 'travelers' diarrhea.

Bactrim works by stopping the growth of bacteria and is effective against both gram-positive and gram-negative organisms, including beta-hemolytic streptococci, staphylococci, pneumococci, Haemophilus influenza, Escherichia coli, Proteus mirabilis, Proteus vulgaris, Klebsiella, Enterobacter, and Citrobacter [4,5,6].

What Are The Side Effects of Bactrim?

Similarly to many other commonly used medications, Bactrim has side effect. Some are common, and usually not too serious, but serious (and more rare) side effects also exist.

Common ones include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, joint or muscle pain, and pain or irritation at the site of injection.

More serious side effects can include rash or skin changes, peeling or blistering skin, hives, itching, red or purple skin discolorations, a return of fever, sore throat, chills, or other signs of infection, cough, shortness of breath, severe diarrhea (watery or bloody stools) that may occur with or without fever and stomach cramps, fast heartbeat, hunger, headache, tiredness, sweating, shaking of a part of your body that you cannot control, irritability, blurry vision, difficulty concentrating, or loss of consciousness, yellowing of the skin or eyes, swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs, hoarseness, difficulty breathing or swallowing, unusual bleeding or bruising, paleness, swelling at the injection site, decreased urination, and seizure.

It's important to contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these serious side effects [7].

Is It Safe To Combine Alcohol with Antibiotics?

Many people often debate whether it's safe to drink alcohol while taking antibiotics, and it is common to think that mixing alcohol and antibiotics is always dangerous.

However, as we discussed in our blog about the interaction between Nitrofurantoin and alcohol, this is not always the case.

In that blog post, we mentioned a study by Mergenhagen et al., which analyzed interactions between various types of antibiotics and alcohol.

The study looked at the data behind interactions of alcohol and different antibiotics, and found that the claims that it is not safe to combine alcohol and antibiotics are often not supported by evidence.

It turns out that some antibiotics don't have known interactions with alcohol, and are safe to combine [8].

However, certain antibiotics, like metronidazole and cephalosporin, do interact with alcohol, and can lead to unpleasant symptoms [9,10].

It is always important to consult with your healthcare professional, as combining alcohol with certain antibiotics can be dangerous.

Is It A Good Idea To Combine Alcohol with Antibiotics?

Even if there are no known interactions between alcohol and the antibiotic in question (as is the case for Nitrofurnatoin and alcohol), drinking on antibiotics is definitely not recommended.

Even though alcohol won't stop the antibiotic from working against the infection, it can negatively impact your body's healing abilities.

Alcohol can disrupt sleep, the immune system, prevent effective nutrient absorption, and reduce your overall energy levels. This can complicate your body's fight against the infection [11].

Additionally, consuming alcohol in excessive amounts can be a problem on its own, even when you are not taking antibiotics. Alcohol consumption has been identified as a risk factor for various types of cancer [12,13], and may also increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease or Frontotemporal Dementia [14,15].

The exact mechanism by which alcohol consumption affects the development of neurodegenerative diseases is not known, and further research is needed. One theory is that it alcohol causes neuroinflammation, which can cause many different neurological diseases.

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Frederika Malichová

Frederika Malichová

Frederika is a postgraduate researcher at the University of Cambridge, where she investigates new biomarkers for Frontotemporal Dementia and other tauopathies. Her research has been published at prestigious conferences such as the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2023. She obtained her BSc in Biomedical Sciences from UCL, where she worked closely with the UK Dementia Research Institute.