Is Mixing Guaifenesin and Alcohol Safe?

Written by Jonathan Strum

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD

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Last Updated - 6/17/2022

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Updated 06/17/2022

When you are sick with a cough or cold, alcohol can make your symptoms worse, especially if you are taking certain medicines that contain guaifenesin.

Guaifenesin, sold under brand names like Mucinex, Robafen and Siltussin, is a common ingredient in medications for cough and cold. It can be taken on its own or combined with other medications, such as pseudoephedrine and dextromethorphan. Guaifenesin is an expectorant, meaning it helps to thin out mucus and secretions to make them easier to cough up. If you drink alcohol, it is important to be careful about drinking while taking cough and cold medicines, including ones that contain guaifenesin.

Mixing Guaifenesin and Alcohol

No drug interactions exist between alcohol and guaifenesin. However, that does not mean it is a good idea to combine them.

Generally, a person taking guaifenesin is trying to treat respiratory symptoms and thin out secretions from a cough or cold. Alcohol can weaken the immune system for up to 24 hours, which can worsen respiratory symptoms while someone is fighting off an infection. For this reason, alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of respiratory infections like pneumonia. Further, alcohol-induced nasal symptoms like nasal stuffiness and runny nose can occur, especially in women and with wine consumption. As a result, drinking can counteract any effect guaifenesin may have on nasal secretions and worsen your infection.

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Alcohol and Mucinex D

Mucinex D combines guaifenesin with pseudoephedrine, a decongestant that shrinks blood vessels in the nose to make breathing easier. Although there are no drug interactions between alcohol and guaifenesin or pseudoephedrine, it is not a good idea to drink while taking Mucinex D. Aside from alcohol’s impact on the immune system and nasal stuffiness, drinking can also counteract pseudoephedrine. Within ten minutes of drinking, alcohol tricks your body into feeling warm. This causes your blood vessels to expand in an attempt to cool yourself down. However, this blood vessel dilation negates the vessel-shrinking effects of pseudoephedrine.

Alcohol and Robitussin DM

Medications like Robitussin DM and Mucinex DM combine guaifenesin with dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant. Dextromethorphan has a drug interaction with alcohol. Taking the substances together can increase side effects like dizziness, drowsiness and concentration problems. Further, some people take high doses of dextromethorphan in an attempt to get high. Mixing large quantities of dextromethorphan with alcohol can be deadly. This is especially true in Caucasians — up to 10% have problems breaking down dextromethorphan, leading to high levels in the body.

How Long Should You Wait Before Drinking?

Due to alcohol’s harmful effects on the immune system, it is best to wait until you have gotten over your cough or cold before you start drinking again. If you start drinking too soon, you could counteract the medications you are taking to relieve your symptoms and worsen your infection.

Additionally, if you have taken a product that contains dextromethorphan, such as Robitussin DM, it is best to avoid drinking until the dextromethorphan has left your system. The half-life of dextromethorphan, or how long it takes half the drug to completely leave your body, can range from two to 24 hours. Because it takes five half-lives for a drug to completely leave your system, dextromethorphan can stay in your body for as little as 10 hours or as long as five days.

Getting Help For Alcohol Abuse

It can be hard to stop drinking if you struggle with alcohol, even when you know it can be harmful to continue. However, you do not need to go through your alcohol addiction alone. At The Recovery Village at Baptist Health, our multidisciplinary team of addiction professionals is well-trained in helping people recover from alcohol abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

Related Topic: Am I an Alcoholic

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