Who should not drink

No one should drink to excess. But some people shouldn't drink at all, not even in moderation. They include

1 People who plan to drive or do work that requires both attention and skill. Alcohol slows reaction time and makes your motor skills — turning the wheel of the car, operating a sewing machine — less precise.

1 Women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant in the near future. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a collection of birth defects including low birth weight, heart defects, retardation, and facial deformities documented only in babies born to female alcoholics. No evidence links FAS to casual drinking — that is, one or two drinks during a pregnancy or even one or two drinks a week. But the fact is that about 7 percent of the babies born in the United States each year are born with birth defects independent of any parental behavior. The parents of these children may feel guilty, even though their behavior had absolutely nothing to do with the birth defect. Your decision about alcohol should take into consideration the possibility of (misplaced) lifelong guilt caused by having had a drink.

1 People who take certain prescription drugs or over-the-counter medication. Alcohol makes some drugs stronger, increases some drugs' side effects, and renders other drugs less effective. At the same time, some drugs make alcohol a more powerful sedative or slow down the elimination of alcohol from your body.

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Table 9-2 shows some of the interactions known to occur between alcohol and some common prescription and over-the-counter drugs. This short list gives you an idea of some of the general interactions likely to occur between alcohol and drugs. But the list is far from complete, so if you're taking any kind of medication — over-the-counter or prescription — check with your doctor or pharmacist regarding the possibility of an interaction with alcohol.

Table 9-2 Drug and Alcohol Interactions

Drug

Possible Interaction with Alcohol

Analgesics (acetaminophen)

Increased liver toxicity

Analgesics (aspirin and other

Increased stomach bleeding; irritation

nonsteroidal inflammatory

drugs — NSAIDs)

Antiarthritis drugs

Increased stomach bleeding; irritation

Antidepressants

Increased drowsiness/intoxication; high blood

pressure (depends on the type of drug — check

with your doctor)

Antidiabetes drugs

Excessively low blood sugar

Antihypertension drugs

Very low blood pressure

Antituberculosis medication

Decreased drug effectiveness; higher risk of

(isoniazid)

hepatitis

Diet pills

Excessive nervousness

Diuretics

Low blood pressure

Iron supplements

Excessive absorption of iron

Sleeping pills

Increased sedation

Tranquilizers

Increased sedation

James W. Long and James J. Rybacki, The Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs 1995 (New York: Harper Collins, 1995)

James W. Long and James J. Rybacki, The Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs 1995 (New York: Harper Collins, 1995)

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