Monday’s medical myth: you can’t mix antibiotics with alcohol

Few antibiotics preclude drinking alcohol but it’s a bad idea to get drunk when you have an infection. DeusXFlorida

Staying off alcohol when taking antibiotics has been hallowed advice from GPs, pharmacists and well-meaning relatives for decades.

It’s difficult to work out exactly where the advice orginated, but Karl Kruszelnicki (Dr Karl) suggests it dates back as far back as the 1950s, when penicillin came into use as the first really effective treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea and syphilis.

Doctors were apparently worried that disinhibited acts under the influence of the demon drink could undo their expensive treatment with the new miracle drugs. So patients were advised to abstain (from alcohol) until things cleared up.

A recent survey suggests these fears may be well founded. Participants receiving treatment for STIs at a United Kingdom clinic were more likely to engage in risky sexual activity while intoxicated.

Some antibiotics react badly to alcohol. Brandice Schnabel