April 14, 2022

The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and DayQuil

an image of cough syrup representing the dangers of mixing alcohol and dayquil

Combining Alcohol With Dayquil

Combining alcohol and DayQuil heightens the risk of experiencing drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Drinking on DayQuil can also cause liver damage.

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Consuming high doses of both substances can cause hallucinations, high blood pressure and other dangerous side effects.

For those wondering, “Can you drink after taking DayQuil”, this guide outlines why this is inadvisable and potentially dangerous.

Can You Drink With Dayquil?

Can you drink with DayQuil, then?

In short, no. Dayquil and alcohol both have sedative properties which are magnified when the substance are combined. Mixing DayQuil and alcohol can also trigger long-term liver damage. Beyond these risks, alcohol also suppresses the immune system, prolonging and intensifying the symptoms of colds and flu.

DayQuil is a common OTC cold medicine used for the following applications:

  • Cough suppressant
  • Decongestant
  • Fever reducer

DayQuil comes in many formulations, but typically contains the following ingredients:

  1. DXM: DXM (dextromethorphan) is an ingredient primarily used as a cough suppressant belonging to the same chemical family as morphine. In low doses, DXM numbs the throat and the senses. In large doses, DXM can induce powerful dissociative and hallucinogenic effects.
  2. Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen is used to treat mild and moderate pain in combination with opioids. The medication may also reduce fever. High doses of acetaminophen can be toxic to the liver.
  3. Phenylephrine: Phenylephrine acts as a decongestant and is indicated for use as a nasal spray. Research suggests that the oral intake of phenylephrine has reduced efficiency.

Alcohol is a CNS depressant and the most abused addictive substance in the United States. Alcohol can be damaging in isolation in many different ways. Combining alcohol with a medication like DayQuil introduces additional risks, though. Mixing DayQuil and alcohol is potentially dangerous for many reasons, including:

  • Alcohol adversely interacts with DXM and acetaminophen.
  • Dayquil interacts differently with alcohol in different doses.
  • Large quantities of alcohol and acetaminophen can directly damage the liver.
  • Combining alcohol and DayQuil heightens the risk of overdose.

What Happens When Mixing Dayquil and Alcohol?

When you mix alcohol and DayQuil, you risk triggering adverse effects even if you are not taking more than the recommended dose.

NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) advises against mixing alcohol with medications. Alcohol may intensify the sedating effects of medications for allergies, cold, and flu medicines, rendering it unsafe to perform tasks like driving. Alcohol may also heighten the risk of experiencing overdose.

The most reported physical reactions provoked by mixing alcohol and cold medicines like DayQuil include:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal upsets
  • Increased risk of GI ulcers and bleeding
  • Rapid heartbeat

Seniors and women are at increased risk of experiencing complications when mixing alcohol with medications. Women metabolize and absorb alcohol differently to men. Additionally, women typically have less water in their bodies than men. Since alcohol mixes with water throughout the body, a women will have relatively higher BAC (blood alcohol content) levels than a man drinking the same amount of alcohol. A higher concentration of alcohol in the body is associated with an increased risk of adverse interactions with medications like DayQuil.

Similarly, the bodies of older people usually take longer to metabolize and process alcohol, meaning that it remains in the system for longer and raises the risk of adverse alcohol and medication interactions. Beyond this, seniors are also more likely to be taking a variety of medications than younger adults, exposing them to greater risks of adverse interactions.

Physical Health Effects

Mixing alcohol and DayQuil can bring about a range of physical health complications. These include:

  • Liver damage: Both alcohol and DayQuil can be hard on the liver. Combining them can trigger irreversible and potentially life-threatening liver damage. According to the FDA, the maximum daily dose of acetaminophen is 3,000mg, although the maximum recommended dose is lower in those who consume alcohol regularly. DayQuil LiquiCaps contain 325mg of acetaminophen, while DayQuil syrup contains 650mg per dose. The manufacturer reports the risk of severe liver damage if you take more than four Dayquil doses in 24 hours, if you combine Dayquil with other acetaminophen products, or if you drink more than three alcoholic beverages daily while using Dayquil. Those with chronic alcoholism are at increased risk of acetaminophen overdose. This can result in severe liver damage and liver failure.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: Mixing alcohol and Dayquil can cause gastrointestinal problems like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Heightened risk of overdose: Both alcohol and Dayquil can trigger respiratory depression and increase the risk of fatal overdose.
  • Alcohol overdose: DayQuil has dissociative effects that may prompt greater alcohol consumption. Mixing DayQuil and alcohol impairs liver function so that the body is unable to break down alcohol at the normal rate.
  • Drowsiness and impaired coordination: Alcohol and DayQuil both induce drowsiness and impair coordination. Combining the substances can intensify these effects, making it challenging to perform tasks that require focus or coordination – driving, for instance.
  • Increased blood pressure: Alcohol can raise blood pressure, while Dayquil can increase heart rate. Combining these substances may lead to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications.

Psychological Health Effects

Mixing alcohol and DayQuil can bring about a variety of adverse effects on psychological health. These include:

  • Impaired judgment and decision-making: Alcohol and DayQuil both impact the brain’s ability to make decisions and sound judgments. Combining the substances may amplify these effects, leading to impaired decision-making and increased risk-taking behavior.
  • Increased anxiety and depression: Both DayQuil and alcohol can worsen the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Mixing the substances can intensify the effects, provoking feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety.
  • Memory problems: Alcohol and DayQuil can both impair memory and cognitive function. Combining them can trigger significant memory problems, making it difficult for you to remember recent conversations or events.
  • Sleep disturbances: DayQuil can cause sleep disturbances, and alcohol can also disrupt the sleep cycle. Combining these substances can lead to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, as well as not feeling rested upon waking.
  • Agitation and irritability: Both alcohol and Dayquil can cause agitation and irritability. Combining them can lead to a heightened state of agitation and irritability, making it difficult to manage your emotions and interact with others effectively.

Beyond these issues, combining alcohol and DayQuil can increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder (the clinical descriptor for alcoholism). Alcohol use disorder is defined by NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) as a chronic and progressive brain condition characterized by the compulsive use of alcohol regardless of negative outcomes. Alcohol use disorder is associated with an array of physical and psychological effects.

If you have a cough, cold or flu and require an OTC medication like DayQuil, refraining from consuming alcohol will minimize the chance of complications and interactions. 

Get Addiction Help at Gratitude Lodge

If you have developed an addiction to alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit narcotics, build the firmest foundation for ongoing recovery at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California. Our pet-friendly rehab centers are located in Newport Beach, San Diego, and Long Beach, CA.

Kickstart your recovery with our supervised medical detox program. Over a week or so, you can benefit from medications to streamline drug or alcohol withdrawal while your treatment team monitor for any complications. You can also access continuous emotional care to help you tackle the cravings associated with drug or alcohol detox.

Next, transition into ongoing inpatient or outpatient treatment according to your needs and the severity of your addiction.

For those fighting addictions with co-occurring mental health conditions, we specialize in coordinated dual diagnosis treatment.

All addictions are unique, and the best addiction treatment is personalized. At Gratitude Lodge, the treatment team will draw from these science-backed and holistic interventions:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy

When you complete your treatment program here at Gratitude Lodge, you may step down to a less intensive level of care, or you may transition directly into everyday life. Either way, you will leave our luxury rehab with an aftercare plan that maximizes your chances of sustained recovery without relapse.

When you’re committed to moving beyond addiction, we can help you every step of the way at Gratitude Lodge. Call 888-861-1658 today for immediate assistance.

Mixing Alcohol & Dayquil FAQs

It’s generally not recommended to drink alcohol while taking DayQuil or any other medication containing acetaminophen. Alcohol and acetaminophen can both be processed by the liver, and combining them can increase the risk of liver damage. It’s essential to follow the instructions on the medication label and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about mixing alcohol with medications.

Drinking alcohol while taking DayQuil or any other medication containing acetaminophen can lead to an increased risk of liver damage, as both alcohol and acetaminophen are processed by the liver. Combining them can put additional stress on the liver and may lead to severe liver problems over time. It’s crucial to avoid mixing alcohol with medications and to follow the recommended dosages and guidelines provided by healthcare professionals.

When used as directed and within the recommended dosage, DayQuil is generally safe for most people and does not pose a significant risk to the liver. However, excessive use or combining it with other medications containing acetaminophen or alcohol can be harmful to the liver, potentially leading to liver damage.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Russe MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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