If you have just started taking a new medication such as a beta-blocker, you may be wondering how it may interact with alcohol.
Alcohol can change how effective beta-blockers are for you, depending on which beta-blocker you’re taking, how much alcohol you consume, and the underlying medical condition being treated, so it’s generally recommended that you avoid alcohol while taking the medication.
While a glass or two of red wine in moderation is relatively safe when taking beta-blockers, too much alcohol can have adverse effects.
Understanding the risks and effects of taking these medications with alcohol and consulting with a medical professional about any side effects you may be experiencing is imperative to avoiding serious health complications, including (in rare cases) fatality.
In this article, I will go over what beta-blockers are, how they may affect you, and risks of taking them with alcohol.
Mixing Beta-Blockers and Alcohol
It is typically advised by doctors that you don’t drink alcohol while taking beta-blockers. This is because beta-blockers are a blood pressure medication predominantly prescribed to people suffering from high blood pressure.
Alcohol consumption can cause an individual’s blood pressure to spike and ultimately lower.
Thus, drinking regularly makes it difficult for the body to regulate blood pressure, which can disrupt how beta-blockers work in the body.
Since alcohol can deregulate blood pressure and beta-blockers can cause low blood pressure, the combination can force your levels to dip too low, resulting in a condition known as hypotension.
If you drink alcohol regularly, your blood pressure may rise.
This is why it is important to stop drinking alcohol before beginning your medication, as alcohol withdrawal syndrome can also lower your blood pressure.
Additionally, taking the extended-release form of metoprolol with alcohol can cause the drug to release in the body faster, which can increase the risk of side effects.
Ultimately, the safety of mixing alcohol and beta-blockers can vary depending on your medical history, age, and other medications you may be taking.
To ensure efficacy of the drug, cease drinking alcohol before starting your medication and discuss with your doctor responsible drinking while taking your recommended dose.
What Are Beta-Blockers?
Beta-blockers are a class of drugs prescribed by healthcare professionals primarily to treat cardiovascular diseases.
They are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of hypertension, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, hyperthyroidism, glaucoma, migraine prophylaxis, and a host of other conditions.
Beta-blockers work by blocking the effects of epinephrine. This forces your heart to beat more slowly and pump with less vigor.
Because your heart no longer has to work as hard, your blood pressure lowers, which is why they are prescribed to people with hypertension.
Additionally, beta-blockers relax your blood vessels through vasodilation, which allows your heart to pump blood more efficiently into the relaxed blood vessels.
For this reason, they are used to treat a range of heart problems.
Your doctor may prescribe any of the following beta-blockers to you:
- Atenolol (Tenormin)
- Bisoprolol (Zebeta)
- Carvedilol (Coreg)
- Esmolol (Brevibloc)
- Metoprolol (Lopressor)
- Nebivolol (Bystolic)
- Propranolol (Inderal)
How Alcohol Affects Blood Pressure
You may have heard that drinking one to two glasses of red wine daily can reduce the risk of heart disease.
Studies have shown that drinking a moderate amount of red wine can improve heart health but this is generally in conjunction with home remedies and lifestyle choices that are known to lower your risk for heart diseases, such as exercise and a healthy diet.
However, drinking too much alcohol can be a detriment to your health.
Consuming more than the recommended amount can cause your blood pressure to spike temporarily.
Over time, this can cause permanent hypertension and weight gain.
If you drink alcohol while taking a beta-blocker, your blood pressure can drop.
This can bring on a range of unwanted side effects, including:
Since alcohol fluctuates your blood pressure, it can be difficult to monitor the efficacy of blood pressure medications.
Risks and Effects
Consuming alcohol while taking beta-blockers can have negative effects on the conditions you’re treating and it is generally advised that you abstain or drink only in moderation. Possible side effects include:
- Anxiety: Alcohol can cause or worsen anxiety and it is generally advised you abstain from alcohol if you struggle with anxiety.
- Glaucoma: Alcohol can increase pressure in your eye over time. This can worsen glaucoma.
- Heart conditions: Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to cardiomyopathy while taking beta-blockers. You may experience abnormal heart rhythms.
- Migraine: Alcohol can trigger migraine attacks as the blood vessels dilate.
- Tremors: Although in small doses alcohol can help essential tremors, severe tremors are common in alcohol withdrawal.
Most people tolerate beta-blockers well, but some adverse side effects can occur among individuals with lower blood pressure levels who are prescribed the medication to treat conditions other than hypertension.
Alcohol can also increase the risk of hypotension in patients who are taking other medicines such as alpha-blockers and calcium channel blockers with beta-blockers. These medicines lower your blood pressure primarily by dilating your arteries.
When to See a Medical Provider
When taking beta-blockers, it is important that you follow the instructions given by your healthcare provider. You should not stop the medication without first consulting with your doctor.
Suddenly stopping beta-blockers may cause certain life-threatening health issues, such as a thyroid storm, in people with hyperthyroidism.
A thyroid storm is a condition where the body struggles to regulate many systems, making it a medical emergency.
You should never stop taking your medication so you can drink.
If you experience serious side effects as a result of mixing alcohol and beta-blockers, you should see a medical provider but continue to take the beta-blocker.
The risk of suddenly stopping beta-blockers is usually higher than the risk of having one or two drinks. Your doctor will be able to determine the best course of treatment for you.
If you experience any of the following when drinking alcohol while taking a beta-blocker, call 911 or seek medical care immediately:
- You faint and think you may have injured yourself or hit your head
- You’re too dizzy to stand up
- Your heart rate accelerates
How K Health Can Help
K Health offers affordable and convenient access to highly qualified doctors to treat and manage high blood pressure, as long as you are not having a hypertensive crisis.
You can meet with your K Health doctor from the comfort of your own home via the K Health app, all while knowing that you’re getting individualized and expert care.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Beta Blockers. (2021).
Red Wine Consumption and Cardiovascular Health. (2019).
The interaction of alcohol and beta-blockers in arterial hypertension. (1990).
The role of beta blockers in alcohol withdrawal syndrome. (1988).