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If you’ve been prescribed valacyclovir, you’re probably wondering how the medication might impact your daily life, from side effects to drug interactions. A common question is whether you can drink alcohol while taking valacyclovir.
The short answer is that it’s not the best idea. Read on to find out why.
What is valacyclovir?
Valacyclovir is an antiviral drug used to treat oral herpes (also known as cold sores) and genital herpes, which are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). It is also used to treat varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles.
How does valacyclovir work?
Valacyclovir works by preventing HSV-1, HSV-2, and VZV from multiplying and spreading throughout the body. Valacyclovir prevents viral DNA from replicating. When that happens, the virus can’t multiply and infect more cells in your body.
Valacyclovir can be used to (FDA, n.d.):
- Treat a herpes outbreak
- Prevent an outbreak of genital or oral herpes
- Reduce the chance that someone who is infected with herpes will pass the virus to their partner through sexual activity
- Treat shingles and mild cases of chickenpox, which are caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV)
Valacyclovir has been shown to be an effective treatment for herpes, but it is not a cure.
Herpes symptoms: know what to look for
Is it safe to take valacyclovir with alcohol?
Experts say that alcohol doesn’t affect the way valacyclovir works. Alcohol warnings aren’t listed on antiviral drugs like valacyclovir (Steckelberg, 2019).
Valacyclovir can be used to treat outbreaks. It can also be prescribed to be taken regularly to prevent outbreaks altogether. Although consuming alcoholic beverages isn’t explicitly prohibited while taking the medication, Valtrex (valacyclovir) is known to cause side effects like headache (13% to 38%), nausea (5% to 15%), abdominal pain (1% to 11%), fatigue (≤8%), depression (≤7%) and dizziness (2% to 4%) — all of which can also be caused by alcohol. Therefore, excessive alcohol consumption is not recommended (UpToDate, n.d.).
If you have questions about taking valacyclovir with alcohol, it’s best to talk with a healthcare provider.
- FDA (n.d.) Valtrex (valacylovir hydrochloride) Prescribing Information. Retrieved on July 28, 2020 from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2005/020487s007rel2_lbl.pdf
- Steckelberg, James. (2019, March 15). Shingles treatment: Does alcohol use affect therapy? Retrieved July 30, 2020 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/expert-answers/shingles-treatment/faq-20057928
- Valacyclovir: Drug information. (n.d.). Retrieved August 19, 2020 from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/valacyclovir-drug-information?search=valtrex+side+effects
Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.