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While you may have all the best intentions of avoiding being impaired behind the wheel, sometimes simple mistakes can leave you more intoxicated than you realize. One common example is when drivers accidentally mix prescription drugs with alcohol.

The labels on many medicine bottles warn against consuming alcohol, but it can be easy for the user to forget the instructions throughout the day. This can put users and the drivers around them in a dangerous position as the effects of combining the drugs are felt and the users become more intoxicated.

What happens when you mix medicine and alcohol?

There are many different types of prescription drugs that can have negative effects when combined with alcohol. Mayo Clinic reports that consuming alcohol while taking antidepressants can actually lead to worsened symptoms as the medicine is counteracted. The effects of the alcohol may slightly lift the user's mood, but it can become worse as anxiety is increased. Certain kinds of antidepressants can even lead to negative health impacts, such as spikes in blood pressure.

Other types of medications can cause the user to feel intensely drowsy, making driving more difficult than normal. Even users who attempt to stay under legal alcohol limits may find they are unable to drive because of side effects such as sleepiness. Unfortunately, they may not be coherent enough to realize this.

Who is at risk

While anybody who takes prescription medications can be affected, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that there are certain groups of people who may be at a higher risk than their peers.

  • Elderly: While many of the medications that elderly people use should not be combined with alcohol, they are also at a higher risk for adverse reactions because the drugs linger in their systems longer.
  • Women: Men can experience negative side effects from combining drugs and alcohol, but women tend to feel those symptoms more intensely. Since a woman's body has less fluid than a man's, the alcohol is not as diluted and can cause damage more quickly.
  • Diabetics: Many of the medications that diabetics take can actually cause worsened symptoms when taken with alcohol, such as extremely low levels of blood sugar and altered blood pressure.

These groups are at a particularly higher risk for negative interactions, but mixing drugs and alcohol can cause harm to anyone.

One of the most important things an intoxicated person can do is stay out of the driver's seat. Unfortunately, the reactions of these medicines can make it difficult to think clearly and make smart decisions. If you have been cited for a DUI or DWI, consult with an experienced attorney for guidance on how to handle the situation.

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