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Last updated: May 26, 2022
4 min read

Can you drink alcohol while taking doxycycline?

chimene richaPatricia Weiser PharmD

Medically Reviewed by Chimene Richa, MD

Written by Patricia Weiser, PharmD

Disclaimer

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

If you’re taking the antibiotic doxycycline, you may be wondering if it’s okay to head to happy hour for a few drinks.  

While this may not be the answer you’re hoping to read, it may be a good idea to avoid mixing doxycycline and alcohol, even if your prescription bottle doesn’t have any warnings about alcohol on its label.

Read on to learn more about doxycycline and why it’s best to avoid or limit alcohol use while taking this antibiotic.

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What is doxycycline?

Doxycycline is a broad-spectrum antibiotic. It treats or prevents a wide range of bacterial infections, such as Lyme disease, malaria, gum disease, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis (Patel, 2022).

Because it also has anti-inflammatory effects, healthcare providers also prescribe doxycycline to treat acne and rosacea, a skin condition that causes skin bumps and blemishes.

Below is a summary of key facts about doxycycline ([email protected], n.d.):

Can I drink alcohol while taking doxycycline?

Alcohol should not interact or cause a severe reaction with doxycycline. However, heavy or chronic alcohol use could shorten the effects of doxycycline in the body (Mergenhagen, 2020). 

While limited alcohol may not cause a severe reaction, it’s still not a good idea to mix alcohol and doxycycline. This is because the combination could be harmful to your liver. Additionally, doxycycline may not work as well when you drink alcohol with it.

The liver is your body’s detoxification organ. It’s responsible for metabolizing or breaking down many substances, including alcohol and doxycycline. 

It’s well-known that alcohol affects your liver, but you may not know that doxycycline has also been implicated as a cause of liver problems. A recent drug safety study showed that tetracycline antibiotics (doxycycline’s drug class) are associated with reports of liver damage and liver failure (Wei, 2022).

Drinking alcohol can weaken your body’s ability to fight off the infection that you’re taking doxycycline to treat. And when you drink alcohol, the liver has to work hard to break it down. The process uses up energy and generates by-products that can promote inflammation and weaken your immune system (Barr, 2016).

Additionally, the effects of alcohol can lead to a not-so-fun hangover. And hangover symptoms can overlap with some of doxycycline’s common side effects like headache, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea (Patel, 2022).

Because each person is different, it’s difficult to predict how many alcoholic drinks will cause a hangover. So, it’s best not to assume that any amount of alcohol is safe while taking doxycycline. 

What if I’ve already had some alcohol?

Healthcare professionals usually recommend avoiding alcohol while taking doxycycline. But, if you’ve already had a drink, there is no reason to panic. 

Small amounts of alcohol with doxycycline should not be life-threatening. Now that you are informed, it is best to switch to water if you’ve already been drinking.

How long after stopping doxycycline can I drink?

A conservative answer would be that you can resume alcohol consumption five days after your last dose of doxycycline. Doxycycline’s half-life is 18 to 22 hours, and it takes about five half-lives for a drug to completely clear out of your system (DailyMed, 2021).

It is likely safe to drink alcohol sooner than five days after stopping doxycycline, but healthcare providers can’t say for sure. Consult your healthcare provider for medical advice, especially if you have a history of liver disease, take other medications, or have any medical conditions. They can advise what is best for you, considering your overall health and treatment goals. 

Other things to avoid while on doxycycline

Doxycycline won’t work as well if you take it too close to foods or supplements that contain calcium or other minerals. Healthcare providers recommend taking doxycycline at least two hours before or after consuming (DailyMed, 2017; DailyMed, 2021):

  • Dairy products like milk and yogurt
  • Fortified foods or beverages, such as orange juice with added calcium
  • Antacids that contain calcium carbonate (Tums) or aluminum (Maalox, Mylanta)
  • Laxatives that contain magnesium
  • Iron supplements
  • Dietary supplements or multivitamins that contain aluminum, calcium, iron, magnesium, or other minerals

You will also want to avoid the upset-stomach medicine Pepto Bismol, as bismuth can render doxycycline less effective.

Also, if you take birth control, doxycycline could possibly lower its effectiveness. So, you may want to use a backup birth control method—such as condoms—to prevent pregnancy while taking the antibiotic.

Doxycycline comes with other precautions, drug interactions, and warnings. The drug is also not recommended for children ages 8 and younger or people who are pregnant or breastfeeding (DailyMed, 2017; DailyMed, 2021). 

The bottom line: While limited alcohol intake may not cause a severe reaction, if you’re on a course of doxycycline, consider waiting until your treatment ends to consume any alcoholic beverages. 

And if you have more questions about doxycycline, reach out to a pharmacist or healthcare provider.

References

  1. Barr, T., Helms, C., Grant, K., et al. (2016). Opposing effects of alcohol on the immune system. Progress in Neuro-psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, 65, 242–251. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2015.09.001. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26375241/
  2. DailyMed. (2021). Doxycycline hyclate capsule. Retrieved from https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/fda/fdaDrugXsl.cfm?setid=f18daceb-33a3-4931-9be7-ecd6356cc119&type=display 
  3. DailyMed. (2017). Monodox – doxycycline monohydrate capsule. Retrieved from https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/fda/fdaDrugXsl.cfm?setid=a65325a7-ae0a-4704-99c4-a3a2e4e1dcf2&type=display 
  4. [email protected] (n.d.). FDA-Approved Drugs. Retrieved May 16, 2022 from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cder/daf/   
  5. Mergenhagen, K. A., Wattengel, B. A., Skelly, M. K., et al. (2020). Fact versus fiction: a review of the evidence behind alcohol and antibiotic interactions. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 64(3), e02167-19. doi:10.1128/AAC.02167-19 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7038249/ 
  6. Patel, R. S. & Parmar, M. (2022). Doxycycline hyclate. StatPearls. Retrieved on May 16, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555888/  
  7. Wei, C., Liu, Y., Jiang, A., & Wu, B. (2022). A pharmacovigilance study of the association between tetracyclines and hepatotoxicity based on Food and Drug Administration adverse event reporting system data. International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy. doi:10.1007/s11096-022-01397-5 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35364753/