Alcohol Mixed with Melatonin & Other Supplements
It’s an established fact that excessive alcohol consumption can take years off of your life. Men who suffer from alcoholism may only have an average life expectancy of 53 years, while women may live to 58 on average. The likelihood of a shortened lifespan may be increased dramatically when you mix alcohol with other substances, too — mixing alcohol with certain drugs such as Benadryl, Valium, or Celexa, for example, can increase your risk of overdose or put you at risk of heart problems. These hazards are generally well-known, but fewer people are aware of the risk that can emerge when you mix alcohol with supplements. Indeed, many people perceive vitamins and supplements to be healthy and natural and thus assume that they are safe — but this isn’t always true.
Find out why alcohol and supplements typically shouldn’t be used together and see how you can get your drinking under control. If you struggling with binge drinking, alcohol dependence, or any other substance abuse disorder, you can overcome your struggles with the right knowledge and treatment.
Can You Take Supplements After Drinking?
Some online sources will encourage people to take supplements after drinking in order to offset the effects of excessive alcohol consumption. It’s true that some research indicates a positive relationship between certain supplements and alcohol — one study indicates that panax ginseng can mitigate the concentration of blood alcohol levels, for example. Generally, though, you should avoid taking any of the following supplements if you’ve been drinking.
Melatonin is a popular sleep aid that’s often favored for its all-natural properties. It helps to regulate a person’s sleep cycle by supplementing the melatonin that’s naturally produced by the body when it gets dark outside. The body generates this hormone in order to prompt sleep, but sometimes it doesn’t create enough, or sometimes you need some extra help to get the rest you need — and that’s where melatonin supplements can help.
When mixed with alcohol, though, melatonin is not as safe as you may assume. Alcohol is known to disrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle, so at best, it will likely cancel out the effects of a melatonin supplement — and at worst, it may put your health at risk. In addition to facilitating sleep, melatonin can lower blood pressure, worsen asthma, and affect heart health. All of these phenomena can be worsened by alcohol and thus increase the risk of a potentially deadly interaction.
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for the body. It’s responsible for supporting your vision, immunity, and reproductive health. Recent research has revealed, though, that a certain component of most vitamin A supplements — β-carotene — may make it unsafe to consume in conjunction with alcohol. β-carotene is often characterized as a precursor to Vitamin A as the body can convert it to Vitamin A upon consumption. Unfortunately, though, β-carotene is linked to increased rates of cancer as well as a serious risk of hepatoxicity.
Hepatoxicity refers to severe liver damage that can be fatal if it is left untreated. When mixed with alcohol, Vitamin A supplements that include β-carotene will dramatically increase the risk of hepatoxicity due to the compound’s interaction with ethanol. Indeed, at least one study has established the hazardous interaction between the ethanol found in alcohol and the β-carotene found in Vitamin A. This interaction reveals that even a seemingly innocuous supplement such as Vitamin A can quickly become deadly when it’s used with alcohol.
Echinacea is a popular supplement in alternative medicine and holistic healing. It is derived from flowering plants that are related to daisies, and it is often used to boost immunity, reduce inflammation, and regulate blood sugar. With all of these purported benefits, you might assume that it’s safe to take after you’ve been drinking, but research suggests otherwise. One of the most common side effects of echinacea is an increase in drowsiness, so it can be dangerous to mix a depressant such as alcohol with a supplement that is already making you feel tired.
Some sources even say that the interaction is severe enough to cause comas or respiratory depression. There is no clear evidence establishing a cause and effect between such events and alcohol and echinacea consumption, though. Still, if you are drinking, it’s ill-advised to take echinacea immediately before or after consuming alcohol.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort is yet another popular supplement that’s often used for depression, anxiety, menopause, and somatic symptom disorder. The supplement itself is taken from a plant found in Europe, and it’s notable for its effective treatment of a wide range of conditions. As is the case with any other supplement, though, you shouldn’t assume that it’s safe simply because it is all-natural. Indeed, St. John’s Wort has several significant drug interactions that users should be wary of, including interactions with prescription antidepressants, blood thinners, and antihistamines.
Alcohol is another important interaction that St. John’s Wort users must be aware of. This is because of the supplement’s ability to irritate the nervous system, causing symptoms such as drowsiness, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating. When you add alcohol to the mix, these symptoms are liable to worsen and potentially become dangerous. Reports also indicate that the combination of alcohol and St. John’s Wort can increase the incidence of cognitive difficulties such as impaired judgment and difficulty thinking.
Valerian is a flowering plant that’s also used as an herbal sedative supplement. It works by increasing the concentration of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) found in your brain, thus inhibiting the nervous system and facilitating sleep. This is great for anybody who suffers from insomnia, anxiety, or other common ailments, but it’s bad news if you’ve combined the supplement with alcohol. Much like Valerian, alcohol stimulates the brain’s GABA receptors, and when the two are mixed, the results can be disastrous.
An excess of GABA in the brain will lead to hypersomnia, excessive drowsiness, and severe bouts of anxiety. In addition to the obvious discomfort caused by these symptoms, they can become dangerous if a person has consumed alcohol and taken a Valerian supplement. Alcohol is known to exaggerate the effects of sedatives and depressants, and in extreme cases, this can make a person vulnerable to respiratory suppression or loss of consciousness. Some sources even link Valerian and alcohol consumption to impaired motor skills and short-term memory loss.
Adverse Reactions Caused by Alcohol and Supplements
It’s clear that supplements aren’t always as safe as they might initially appear — and it’s clear that alcohol can make an otherwise safe supplement dangerous. If you regularly drink alcohol and take supplements, though, you need to be aware of the potential risks that you’re facing, including the following adverse reactions that may emerge.
Perhaps the greatest risk caused by mixing supplements with alcohol is the increased susceptibility to severe drowsiness. Drowsiness is characterized by strong feelings of sleepiness throughout the day and the inability to keep your eyes open. It could even lead to related symptoms such as memory loss and irritability. In and of itself, drowsiness isn’t necessarily deadly — though it’s always a cause for concern. When the drowsiness is caused by an ill-advised drug and supplement combination, though, it could be a threat to your health.
One of the biggest dangers that can accompany drowsiness is the potential hazard of driving while drowsy. According to the Centers for Disease Control, this can be even more treacherous than driving while under the influence of alcohol alone — and if your drowsiness is caused by alcohol and supplement consumption, it’s a recipe for disaster. Your likelihood of an accident will increase exponentially, but even if you don’t plan to drive, excessive drowsiness can still have other risks. You may find it difficult to function at work, interact with others, and maintain cognitive coherence.
The aforementioned risk of hepatoxicity cannot be overstated when it comes to mixing alcohol with supplements. In addition to Vitamin A, the excessive intake of iron and niacin can be detrimental to your liver’s health, too — especially if these supplements are taken in conjunction with alcohol. It should be noted, though, that alcohol has hepatoxic potential in and of itself. The link between alcoholism and liver failure has been repeatedly confirmed by extensive research.
Mixing alcohol with a supplement that may exacerbate its effects can have deadly results if you are not careful. Interestingly, though, some supplements have been shown to yield a positive effect in cases of alcoholic liver disease (ALD). According to research, certain carotenoids, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B3 may all mitigate the effects of ALD. It should be noted that these findings were not produced in human subjects, though, and you should never attempt to self-medicate with supplements without seeking professional treatment first.
The immediate effects of alcohol are easy to recognize — you probably feel more relaxed, and you may experience physical reactions such as slower breathing, too. Altered breathing patterns may become a dangerous side effect, though, when you pair alcohol with supplements that incur an adverse reaction. This is because of alcohol’s ability to impair the glottic reflex found in the respiratory system. The glottic reflex is responsible for shielding the upper airway from obstruction — so when it is impaired, the likelihood of respiratory failure increases.
Any supplement that acts as a sedative or sleep aid — including supplements such as Valerian and melatonin — can potentially exacerbate the occurrence of these symptoms. The respiratory system is inherently unstable during sleep due to the reduction in brain activity. Breathing will slow down even further as you reach non-REM sleep. If you take a supplement that facilitates sleep and then mix this supplement with alcohol, you are increasing the risk of breathing difficulties and respiratory suppression.
Unfortunately, in some cases, alcohol and supplement combinations can yield fatal results. This is most commonly a hazard when you are consuming alcohol in conjunction with a supplement that may harm liver function, but there are other potential causes of toxicity, too. If you consume too much calcium, vitamin A, Vitamin D, or zinc, alcohol will worsen the results and could potentially cause toxicity. Supplement overdoses are relatively rare, but the ethanol that’s found in alcohol makes it far more likely that you’ll experience a fatal reaction. Even when it is not mixed with supplements, the excessive consumption of ethanol via alcohol is a potentially deadly endeavor.
You should know, however, that research reveals conflicting information about the relationship between supplements and alcohol toxicity. Indeed, some studies indicate that large quantities of certain supplements may increase the likelihood of toxicity, while other research suggests that certain minerals and vitamins are, in fact, beneficial to preventing alcohol toxicity. Due to the ambiguity of current data, it’s best to err on the safe side and avoid mixing supplements with alcohol unless you’ve received approval or instruction to do so from your primary care provider.
When Should I Be Worried?
If you’ve mistakenly mixed alcohol with supplements and you’re worried that an adverse reaction may occur, there are several important symptoms to look out for that may indicate immediate distress. These symptoms indicate that a person may be having a toxic reaction to the mixture of alcohol and supplements. If you suspect that you or somebody else may be having a medical emergency — or if you notice any of the following symptoms — call 911.
The sudden onset of confusion is one of the most concerning signs of alcohol poisoning or an adverse reaction. If a person inexplicably seems unaware of their surroundings, unable to recall recent events, or they are visibly disoriented, these are signs that they are likely experiencing cognitive impairment of some kind — and cognitive impairment is a sign of a potential toxic reaction. In addition to calling emergency services, you should combat confusion by consuming water, resting, and ceasing alcohol consumption.
It’s also important to make note of what vitamins and supplements — if any — were consumed prior to the emergence of symptoms. This will help you identify the cause of the adverse reaction and prevent it from happening again. Even if you did not suspect that a supplement could be harmful, every person’s body chemistry is unique, and you may possess a predisposition to toxicity that’s triggered by certain supplements. If you experience confusion after consuming a specific supplement along with alcohol, it’s important not to replicate this combination in the future.
Seizures are a particularly frightening symptom that may indicate a toxic reaction to alcohol and supplements. You might imagine a seizure as a dramatic display of convulsions, but in addition to such incidents, a seizure may manifest as uncontrollable shaking or jerking, a sudden spell of staring, or the display of strange facial expressions. According to research, consuming at least three alcoholic beverages will dramatically increase the likelihood of a seizure for people with epilepsy.
Seizures may also be more likely after alcohol consumption even for those who are not epileptic. Although there is no explicit link between consuming supplements and experiencing seizures, the mixture of supplements and alcohol may still increase the potential for a bad reaction — including a seizure. For this reason, you should always monitor your alcohol intake and be sure that it does not coincide with the consumption of any supplements that may pose a danger to your health.
Vomiting is the most common symptom associated with alcohol poisoning and toxicity. Although it may not seem like a medical emergency, alcohol’s aforementioned impact on the glottic reflex means that a person is more likely to choke on their vomit when they are intoxicated. Choking may then inhibit your ability to breathe, which could ultimately lead to death. It’s imperative to sit up or stand while vomiting in order to minimize the chances of choking.
There are some supplements that may exacerbate this problem and heighten the risk. Vitamins such as folate and Vitamin C are more acidic than other supplements, for example, which may increase the likelihood that you’ll experience nausea or even vomiting. Some research indicates that women may be more likely to experience nausea and vomiting from supplements due to their higher levels of estrogen, but this risk can affect anybody. If you take these supplements while drinking, the chances of vomiting — and the related risk of fatality — may increase considerably.
Don’t Mix Alcohol With Vitamins and Supplements
Common wisdom says that vitamins and supplements are good for you, and this is true in most cases. When combined with alcohol, however, supplements can seriously raise the risk of dangerous side effects, including nausea, vomiting, seizures, and toxicity. If you are drinking, you should be especially careful to avoid supplements such as Valerian and melatonin that may have a sedative effect. Maintaining healthy alcohol habits can be hard, though, and if you are struggling with alcohol abuse, you aren’t alone — and there is help available. Clean Recovery Centers serves people throughout the Tampa, FL area by providing comprehensive rehabilitative treatment for alcoholism. Discover recovery by calling 888-330-2532 today.