Why you must avoid alcohol when taking metronidazole

Why you must avoid alcohol when taking metronidazole

Metronidazole is an antibiotic used to treat certain types of bacterial and parasitic infections. Flagyl is the brand name of this antibiotic.
Metronidazole (Flagyl) can treat and prevent the following:

  • STIs
  • abdominal infections
  • skin infections
  • bone and joint infections
  • central nervous system infections
  • respiratory infections
  • infections of the heart’s lining

Every time the Pharmacist dispenses Metronidazole says “Avoid alcohol.” But Why? And for how long?
When a person consumes alcohol, the body breaks it down in two steps. First, it breaks alcohol into a compound called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is toxic and responsible for the unwanted effects of alcohol.

Next, the body reduces acetaldehyde to acetate. It does this with an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase. Flagyl blocks the effects of this enzyme. As a result, a person on Flagyl cannot fully digest alcohol, and drinking can cause the toxic acetaldehyde to build up in the bloodstream, leading to the below unpleasant side effects:

  • stomach pains
  • nausea
  • seizures
  • hot flushes
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • headaches

NB: The interaction is very significant and has been known to occur with even very small amounts of alcohol.
Manufacturers of metronidazole advise that you should avoid drinking alcohol while taking the antibiotic and fort three days after finishing the course. This is because it takes roughly 48 hours for metronidazole to be cleared from the body of an average adult.

During the duration of treatment with Flagyl, it may be sensible to also avoid alcohol-containing cough and cold remedies and mouthwashes.
Key fact: If you have taken alcohol while on metronidazole treatment, and you become nauseous, sip water and avoid sudden movement. If you feel lightheaded or dizzy, sit down to avoid falling. Symptoms will vary in severity between people, but they should fade with time. Seek medical help if symptoms persist or worsen.

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