Nitrofurantoin and Alcohol: Can You Drink While Taking Macrobid?

Nitrofurantoin, also known under the brand name Macrobid, is a widely used antibiotic for treating uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs). It is natural to ask whether this antibiotic can be mixed with alcohol. The common knowledge is that one should abstain from drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics. However, some research suggests that this may in fact be a myth. In this blog post, we analyze the interaction between Nitrofurantoin and alcohol, by looking at scientific studies.
Frederika Malichová

Frederika Malichová

Neuroscientist at the University Of Cambridge.

A picture of alcohol and pills, representing antibiotics.

Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Nitrofurantoin (Macrobid)?

To find out whether drinking on Macrobid is safe, we need to find out if there are any interactions between alcohol and Nitrofurantoin.

Let's simply ask MediSearch for a direct answer, based on scientific studies.

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There are no known interactions between alcohol and Nitrofurantoin and drinking on Macrobid is safe, but definitely not recommended [1].

What is Nitrofurantoin?

Nitrofurantoin is an antibiotic medication primarily used for the treatment of uncomplicated lower urinary tract infections. It concentrates in the lower urinary tract, making it advantageous for UTI treatment. It is effective against most gram-positive and gram-negative organisms [2].

Nitrofurantoin’s mechanism of action is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve multiple mechanisms. One of the main mechanisms is the conversion of Nitrofurantoin by bacterial nitroreductases into highly reactive intermediates.

These intermediates then attack bacterial ribosomal proteins, leading to the inhibition of protein synthesis. Nitrofurantoin also has the ability to inhibit inducible enzyme synthesis in bacteria. Its multiple sites of attack and mechanisms of action contribute to its effectiveness against a wide range of bacteria and the low development of resistance [3].

Side Effects of Nitrofurantoin

Common side effects of nitrofurantoin include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, and darkening of urine.

Less common side effects may include rash, itching, and fever. If you experience any severe or persistent side effects, it is important to contact a healthcare professional.

Alcohol and Antibiotics

Is It Safe To Combine Alcohol with Antibiotics?

The interaction between antibiotics and alcohol is a frequently debated topic, and many people wonder whether drinking on antibiotics is safe. Let us look at the science.

A 2020 study by Mergenhagen et al., analyzed data behind the claims that it is not safe to combine alcohol and antibiotics. Surprisingly, they found that for many antibiotics, these claims are not supported by data. It turns out that several antibiotics don't have known interactions with alcohol, and are safe to combine.

In particular, Nitrofurantoin and alcohol don’t have any common interactions, and you can drink alcohol while taking Nitrofurantoin (Macrobid) [4].

However, certain antibiotics, like metronidazole and cephalosporin, can cause a disulfiram-like reaction when combined with alcohol, leading to unpleasant symptoms [5, 6]. 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.

While alcohol won't typically stop an antibiotic from working to treat an infection, it can interfere with your body's ability to heal.

Alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns, the immune system prevent the absorption of vital nutrients, increase blood sugar levels, and reduce energy levels, all of which can hinder your body's healing process [7].

Furthermore, excessive alcohol consumption can be a problem on its own, even without the antibiotics. For example, there is a significant link between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of various types of cancer.

Alcohol has been identified as a major risk factor for cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, larynx, stomach, colon, rectum, liver, female breast, and ovaries. The risk increases with the amount and duration of alcohol consumption, with no identified threshold level of consumption below which no increased risk is evident [8,9].

Alcohol may promote tumor growth through free radicals generated during its metabolism, effects on cell necrosis and proliferation, and immunosuppression [10].

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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.