The term “drug overdose” often has connotations of illicit drugs or intentional abuse attached to it. However, some seemingly harmless over-the-counter medications and drugs can still result in a risk when mixed with some other kinds of drugs. One such combination is Benadryl and alcohol. Both are commonly found in households in the US, so the risk of an accidental mixing of the two can be dangerous.
Benadryl—Just an Allergy Medication?
Benadryl, or its chemical name Diphenhydramine, classifies as an antihistamine drug. Usually, Benadryl is taken to counteract allergies, insect bites, poison oak/ivy, and sometimes allergic reactions from animals. Since individuals can purchase this drug over the counter without a prescription, it is a fairly common household item, and rarely thought of as a dangerous drug. However, there have been a handful of recorded instances where young individuals abuse the drug to maximize its side effect of drowsiness. Fortunately, though, there are no observations with dependencies or addictions from use. Most of the danger from Benadryl and other similar medications arises when an individual takes them with another drug, like alcohol. Since the drug isn’t inherently dangerous, many people may not realize the danger of mixing two such substances.
When consumed, Benadryl acts as a depressant on the nervous system. Drugs classified as depressants slow down the body’s nerve and brain function. Usually, this ‘slow down’ effect is not dangerous, but it can become threatening if another depressant is taken at the same time. People may not realize that alcohol is also a depressant. An individual may have forgotten they took benadryl, or just did not know about the potential dangers. Either way, the two combined in the body can take a serious toll.
How Do Alcohol and Benadryl Mix?
With frequent drug mixing, it is possible for an overdose to occur. With widespread and socially acceptable use, people often mix alcohol with other substances. When taken intentionally for a more pronounced effect, the practice is known as polysubstance abuse. Since Benadryl stays in the system for a long time, people may mix the drug unintentionally with alcohol. An individual may take Benadryl in the afternoon, then forget about it, and consume alcohol later in the evening. If the combined effects of both Benadryl and alcohol are strong enough, an overdose can occur. However, this is unlikely without a high enough dosage of either substance or other substances.
Benadryl’s Side Effects
Antihistamines like Benadryl have a number of side effects that strengthen when in combination with alcohol’s side effects. Usually, combining multiple drugs will compound their negative effects, sometimes creating a deadly combination.
Side effects of Benadryl include:
- Stomach aches
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
Consuming alcohol can create a high amount of risk for individuals who take Benadryl. Some medications, like cough syrups or laxatives, contain alcohol themselves and should not be taken simultaneously with Benadryl. This specific combination is unlikely to cause an overdose, but the combination can still be tremendously unpleasant, and can feel like intoxication. As such, operating machinery or vehicles while taking Benadryl and another drug or alcohol can be very dangerous, and lead to serious injury or even death.
Benadryl as a Sleep Aid
Sometimes, individuals may take Benadryl exclusively for its side effect of drowsiness, to help them sleep. However, doctors do not typically recommend this. Always consult a doctor or medical professional before using Benadryl as a sleep aid. Since Benadryl can react dangerously with other substances, using other medications for sleep aid is usually the best route.
Rundown on the Combination
Can combining them lead to death?
The combination of Benadryl and alcohol can lead to a heavily sedated state and result in trouble with thinking. However, the combination is unlikely to cause a fatal overdose. Most of the danger arises when an individual who has taken both attempts to drive or operate machinery. Since the state induced by Benadryl and alcohol is similar to a very drunk state, attempting to drive brings all the risks of drunk driving.
How long until it is safe to take the other?
The half-life of a substance is the length of time it takes before half of it is gone. Since Benadryl’s half life varies fairly heavily, it is usually a good idea to exercise caution when deciding whether or not to drink. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) studied the half life of Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and determined it has a half life of 3.4 hours to as long as 9.2 hours. Essentially, this means that the drug will be completely gone from an individual’s system two days after they take it.
The same is true for alcohol, though the effects usually don’t last throughout the entire two days. Individuals with kidney or liver problems may need to wait even longer, as their bodies cannot eliminate the substance as quickly. The best way to avoid a potentially unpleasant mix of Benadryl with alcohol is to wait for one to completely leave the body before taking the other.
What are the signs of an overdose?
Uncontrollable shaking is a rare side effect of alcohol consumption, but it is also one of the side effects of an overdose on alcohol and Benadryl. Each person may react differently to both alcohol and Benadryl, so it is important to know all of the potential side effects of an overdose. Usually overdoses occur when the side effects of a drug overpower the nervous system, causing a shutdown of bodily processes. At high enough levels, this can occur with Benadryl combined with alcohol, leading to the following side effects:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Stopped breathing
- Blue fingers or lips
Addiction can manifest in a number of ways, and it isn’t always easy to identify. If you consistently take Benadryl with alcohol to self medicate or for any reason, consider reaching out for help. Professionals are able to try and treat the root causes of addiction, not just treat the symptoms of it. If you think you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction of any kind, please contact us today, and we can help you on the journey to recovery.