Bactrim and Alcohol: Can You Drink on Bactrim?

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Written by: Jessica Guht Medically reviewed by: Amy Dougherty, FNP-BC, AGAC
Jessica Guht
Categorized as Antibiotics
Created on:
Jessica Guht
Categorized as Antibiotics

Those with a bacterial infection may be prescribed Bactrim, a combination drug effective against some of the most common bacterial infections. However, a frequently asked question when taking a medicine is if it is safe to mix with alcohol, leading many to wonder if you can drink on Bactrim. 

While alcohol does not affect the efficacy of Bactrim, it can cause the potential side effects of Bactrim to occur or even worsen. Continue reading to learn more about how Bactrim and alcohol interact and if mixing these two is ever safe. 

Table of Contents

What Is Bactrim?

Bactrim is a combination antibiotic drug consisting of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole. These two drugs are responsible for treating different bacterial infections, and combining the two into one drug increases the number of infections Bactrim can treat. When they work together, trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole block two steps in the production of proteins and nucleic acids needed by bacteria in order to survive. 

Bactrim is effective against various bacterial infections, such as:

  • urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • ear infections
  • traveler’s diarrhea
  • bronchitis
  • pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia
  • shigellosis

However, some of the above infections may also have a viral cause, so Bactrim will only be effective if the cause is bacterial. 

Those who take Bactrim may experience some side effects, and the most common center around the stomach, such as nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea. To help minimize nausea and vomiting, Bactrim can be taken with food. As for lessening diarrhea, try staying hydrated and avoiding greasy and spicy foods. 

In addition to these common and minimal side effects, those who take Bactrim may also notice more significant ones. For example, Bactrim can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, increasing your chances of getting sunburn. 

Bactrim may also produce an allergic reaction in some people; signs of this can include:

  • hives
  • coughing
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling in the throat, mouth, or face
  • chest pain

Severe skin reactions may also occur while taking Bactrim, including fever, sore throat, skin pain, purple or red rash with blistering and peeling skin, and burning eyes. 

If you have any severe side effects while taking Bactrim, including allergic reactions, skin reactions, or liver problems, reach out to a medical professional immediately. 

Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Bactrim?

It is not recommended to drink alcohol while taking Bactrim because it may cause Bactrim’s side effects to be more severe. Some of these side effects that can occur while mixing alcohol and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole include warmth or redness of the skin, fast heartbeats, nausea, vomiting, or tingling sensations. This is considered a “disulfiram-like” reaction. 

Because of these potential side effects, it is not recommended to drink alcohol while taking Bactrim. In fact, medical professionals generally advise never to drink alcohol while taking any medication because it can reduce the medicine’s efficacy or cause unpleasant side effects to amplify or appear. 

As it stands, research into alcohol’s effects on Bactrim does not appear to show any decline in Bactrim’s efficacy. So, you can drink on sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim, but it is still essential to be aware that mixing the two may increase side effect occurrence and severity. 

What Happens if You Drink Alcohol With Bactrim?

While alcohol will not decrease the effectiveness of Bactrim, if you choose to drink alcohol while taking Bactrim, there can be some consequences, such as keeping you sicker for longer.

Alcohol has also been shown to dehydrate the person drinking, but hydration is crucial to recovery from infection. In this regard, alcohol can inhibit your body’s ability to heal. Alcohol can also disrupt sleep in some people, and, again, rest is crucial for healing from illness. 

Beyond the more severe side effects that may occur while taking Bactrim and alcohol together, alcohol can also suppress your immune system, making your body less effective at removing the infection you have. This is critical because antibiotics work with your body’s immune system to eliminate the infection. If your immune system is not working as well as it should, it may take your body longer to fight the infection, leaving you sicker for longer. 

Additionally, by suppressing your immune system, your infection might actually get worse and may require stronger treatment, which could then come with more severe side effects. 

Risk of Mixing Bactrim and Alcohol

If you mix Bactrim and alcohol, you may experience:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • flushing
  • headache and migraines
  • respiratory problems
  • palpitations

Even more, these side effects could appear within just 15 minutes of drinking alcohol. 

If you take Bactrim long-term and drink alcohol, the side effects may elevate to:

  • erratic mood and behavior
  • brain damage
  • chronic sleep dysfunction
  • depression
  • reduced libido

So, if you take Bactrim long-term and continue drinking alcohol even while on this antibiotic, the side effects can be quite severe. 

Furthermore, Bactrim may cause liver problems in some people, with symptoms that can include:

  • lightening stool
  • darkening urine
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • stomach pain

Since alcohol can also damage the liver, specifically in those with a history of alcohol abuse or long-term consumption, alcohol can further damage the liver. 

How Long After Taking Bactrim Can You Drink Alcohol?

When it comes to how long you should wait to drink alcohol after taking Bactrim, it helps to look at the half-life of Bactrim and how long it remains in your system

Trimethoprim has a half-life of 8-10 hours, and sulfamethoxazole’s is 10. On average, it takes a drug 5-6 half-lives until it is cleared from your system. So, Bactrim will remain in your system for 50-60 hours, or around 5 days.

This means that if you want to wait until Bactrim is entirely out of your system, you should wait at least 5 days after your last dose before drinking alcohol.

It’s important to remember, though, that these numbers are only estimates as certain factors can increase how long it takes for your body to remove Bactrim. For example, those of an older age or with a metabolic condition will not clear the medication from their body as quickly and should then wait longer to drink alcohol. 

What Else Should You Avoid on Bactrim?

In addition to alcohol, other medications may interact with Bactrim, such as:

  • antidepressants
  • anticonvulsants
  • digoxin
  • cyclosporine
  • indomethacin
  • anticoagulants
  • blood pressure medications
  • pyrimethamine
  • methotrexate
  • thiazide diuretics
  • metformin
  • medicines that induce or inhibit CYP2D6 enzymes

For a complete list, speak to your doctor and ensure they are aware of all medications you take. 

FAQs

Can you die if you drink on Bactrim?

Mixing alcohol and Bactrim does not usually result in death. However, it can cause some unpleasant side effects, which is why it is recommended to avoid alcohol while taking Bactrim. 

Can I drink alcohol 24 hours after taking Bactrim?

24 hours after you take a dose of Bactrim, it is still in your system. So, it is still not recommended to drink alcohol at this time. Bactrim generally remains in your system for 5 days, after which time it is safe to drink alcohol. 

When to See a Doctor?

If you drink alcohol while taking Bactrim and notice any unpleasant or severe side effects, contact a doctor or seek emergency medical attention. 

Watch for skin reactions such as blistering, rashes, peeling, ulcers, or sores. Anyone taking Bactrim should also monitor for allergic reactions, which have symptoms such as difficulty breathing, itching, swelling of the throat, tongue, or mouth, and chest pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, call a doctor or visit the emergency room. 

Bactrim may also cause liver problems in some people, and you should seek immediate medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • lightening stool
  • darkening urine
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • stomach pain

Key Takeaways

Bactrim is a combination antibiotic taken to treat a range of bacterial infections. However, like most medications, it is not recommended to drink alcohol while taking it. This isn’t because alcohol makes it less effective but because mixing alcohol and Bactrim can cause more severe side effects. Additionally, alcohol generally inhibits the immune system, which may keep you sicker for longer. 

If you decide to drink alcohol while taking Bactrim, be sure to contact a doctor if you notice any skin reactions, allergic reactions, or signs of problems with the liver. If you’re ever unsure if it’s safe to take a particular medicine with alcohol, reach out to your doctor. 

Sources:

Content on the DrHouse website is written by our medical content team and reviewed by qualified MDs, PhDs, NPs, and PharmDs. We follow strict content creation guidelines to ensure accurate medical information. However, this content is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For more information click here.

Always consult with your physician or other qualified health providers about medical concerns. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on what you read on this website.

If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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