Benadryl and Alcohol: Easy to Get; Easy to Misuse

benadryl and alcohol abuse

It’s a one-stop shopping trip to get high on a mixture of Benadryl and alcohol. Benadryl is the brand-name for an antihistamine called diphenhydramine. Antihistamines block your body’s reaction to allergens.

Because you can buy it at pharmacies, grocery stores, and even gas stations, many people think it is safe to use in any situation even though the package warns you that drowsiness may occur, and not operate machinery while using it. The most serious risk comes if you use it with alcohol.

If you or a loved one are dealing with a substance abuse problem, you know it can be a very complex issue. Dependency affects all areas of a person’s life, and it can present itself in many ways. Mixing drugs and alcohol is common, but that many may not be familiar with. An example of this type of substance combination is Benadryl and alcohol abuse.

Misuse of Benadryl

Benadryl has only been approved to treat allergy symptoms and for no other purpose. Recognizing that it increases drowsiness, some people use it as a sleep aid. In its generic form, diphenhydramine is approved as a sleep aid. People also think alcohol can also be a sleep aid because it also can make you drowsy.

If you really want a good night’s sleep, don’t be fooled into thinking that combining the two will solve the problem. The combination of Benadryl and alcohol might make you dizzy and actually prevent you from getting that good night’s sleep.

Benadryl may also negatively interact with sleep aids and other medications. You should only use Benadryl to treat your allergy symptoms.

Side Effects of Benadryl

Benadryl treats allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and even itchy skin. But Benadryl comes with side effects such as: 

  • Dry mouth
  • Urination difficulty
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Agitation or excitability

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that Benadryl may have a greater effect on a driver’s ability to stay alert than alcohol. NHTSA also agrees that alcohol can enhance the effects of Benadryl. 

Crest View Recovery Center wants to help you understand this problem and its risks. Far too many people ignore the risks that conventional medications can lead to when mixed with alcohol. Information is an important weapon against addiction. Keep reading to learn more.

The Dangers of Combining Alcohol and Benadryl

Because both alcohol and Benadryl depress your CNS, taking them together is dangerous because they can slow your central nervous system too much. This causes sedation and trouble doing physical and mental tasks that need you to be alert.

Dr. David Corry of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas says, “First-generation antihistamines will cause drowsiness in just about everybody [and] alcohol does that too, so if you’re taking alcohol and antihistamines your chances of having a double dose of that drowsiness are very, very high.” He also explained that the worst-case scenario is that the double-dose of drowsiness increases the likelihood of an accident and could lead to unconsciousness.

A major danger occurs when people engage in activities like driving or operating machinery while under the influence of these substances. It’s also possible to have an accident such as falling or cutting yourself. 

In addition, the sedation effect caused by the combination of Benadryl and alcohol can sometimes be enough to lead to unconsciousness. Combined in very large amounts, they could even kill you. This goes for all first-generation antihistamines such as:

  • Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton)
  • Clemastine (Tavist)
  • Hydroxyzine (Atarax)

Second-generation allergy medications are considered a slightly safer combination with alcohol. They don’t usually cause drowsiness or the other side effects that are increased by alcohol consumption. Second-generation allergy medications include:

  • Loratadine (Claritin)
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra)
  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)

Ten Risks of Combining Benadryl With Alcohol

  1. Drowsiness: Impairs coordination and reaction speed.
  2. Loss of consciousness: Some people are more likely to lose consciousness when sedated.
  3. Dehydration: Both substances cause dehydration, which causes discomfort and may worsen a hangover.
  4. Complications in older adults: Aging slows down the body’s ability to break down alcohol. The slowdown increases the time a person will be at risk.
  5. Learning and memory impairment: Benadryl blocks a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which is necessary for learning and memory.
  6. Interactions with other medications: Benadryl interacts with other types of medications, which can increase the side effects.
  7. Other sources of alcohol: Some medications can contain up to 10% alcohol, which may interact with Benadryl. Cough syrups and laxatives are two.
  8. Sex: Females are generally more susceptible to alcohol-related harm because their bodies contain less water for alcohol to mix with, which increases the alcohol concentration.
  9. Misuse: Mixing Benadryl with alcohol as a sleeping aid can cause side effects that interfere with sleep.
  10. Dementia: A study has shown that people who take one antihistamine drug per day for at least 3 years have an increased risk for dementia. Another study showed that excessive alcohol use is also associated with a higher risk of dementia. It’s not such a stretch to believe that consuming Benadryl and alcohol over time could be linked to an increased risk of dementia.

When to Call a Doctor

You should stop using Benadryl and call your doctor immediately if you have:

  • Pounding heartbeats or fluttering in your chest
  • Painful or difficult urination
  • Little or no urinating
  • Confusion and feeling like you might pass out
  • Tightness in your neck or jaw
  • Uncontrollable movements of your tongue

Benadryl, Alcohol, and Seniors

Taking Benadryl and drinking alcohol makes it difficult to control body movements in people of any age. It is even riskier for seniors. This lack of motor control is one of the bigger risks people mixing these substances will face. The state they end up in puts them at great risk of hurting themselves.

Medication Interactions

As previously mentioned, it’s important to be aware of the alcohol content in your other medications while you’re taking Benadryl. It’s important to understand how these substances interact with each other and affect your overall health.

Medications that may interact with Benadryl include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Stomach ulcer medicine
  • Cough and cold medicine
  • Other antihistamines
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Sedatives

Disease Reactions Associated with Benadryl

  • Depression: People with a history of depression or other psychiatric disorders should use Benadryl with caution
  • Asthma/COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease): Use of antihistamines can cause an obstruction of the respiratory tract.
  • Cardiovascular: Administration of antihistamines such as Benadryl should be done carefully in patients with cardiovascular disease hypertension and/or hyperthyroidism.
  • Renal/liver disease: Patients with renal and/or liver disease may be at a higher risk for adverse effects from antihistamines because of drug and metabolite accumulation in the liver.
  • Glaucoma: Patients with glaucoma should use some hypnotic drugs (including Benadryl) carefully.
  • Respiratory depression: Some patients may be susceptible to respiratory depression at normal dosages. This includes the elderly, severely ill patients, and people taking other CNS depressants

Bear in mind that these reactions are for Benadryl misuse alone. As mentioned previously, adding alcohol intensifies the risks associated with Benadryl.

How Crest View Recovery Center Can Help

Polysubstance abuse, or the improper use of multiple substances, is a serious problem. If you or your loved one is engaging in the use of two or more substances as a way of self-medication in the face of a mental or mood disorder, you should seek professional help immediately.

Although Benadryl and alcohol do not present the severe physical dangers that the use of other combined substances does, and you may feel better for a while, it will not “cure” any underlying disorders. There is a connection between mental illness and substance abuse. People suffering from a dual diagnosis (co-occurring disorders) need the treatment that only medical and psychiatric professionals can offer.

Here at CVRC, we understand the unique issues that come with this sort of addiction, and we have the unique expertise and resources to help address it. Discover for yourself the way our center can help.

For example, some highlights of our facility include:

Combining substances can lead to serious consequences. If you or a loved one are dealing with a dependency on Benadryl and alcohol, we can help. The road to recovery is far smoother when you have support. Contact us to learn more. 

At Crest View Recovery Center, we will help you reach the height of sobriety.