What Happens if You Mix Benadryl and Alcohol: The Dangerous Effects

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Seasonal allergies and the common cold are frustrating parts of day-to-day life for millions of Americans each year. The changing seasons bring about sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, and intermittent congestion that can make simply getting out of bed difficult. 

Fortunately, there are a variety of over-the-counter medications that provide quick, functional symptom relief. For many, Benadryl is a top choice. Although Benadryl is safe and effective when taken as directed, there are situations where Benadryl is not recommended and may produce dangerous drug interactions. 

What is Benadryl?

Benadryl is the brand name for the antihistamine diphenhydramine. Antihistamines work in the body to interfere with the action of histamines. Histamines are part of the body’s immune response to allergens. They are responsible for itchy skin, stuffy noses, and other reactions you experience with you come into contact with or eat something you are allergic to. 

An antihistamine like Benadryl works by blocking the body’s response to allergens, reducing and alleviating the intensity of allergy symptoms. Benadryl is commonly available over the counter at drug stores and pharmacies without a prescription, leading people to believe it is safe to use in any situation. It is vital to remember that, despite the readily available nature of Benadryl, it is a potent drug, and using it is not without risk. One such risk is the severe effects that can result if you take it and consume alcohol.

Benadryl and Alcohol

Ongoing alcohol abuse and addiction eventually have a negative and often irreversible effect on the liver. Benadryl, on the other hand, does not. Benadryl, like alcohol, is a CNS (Central Nervous System) depressant. Because both alcohol and Benadryl work to slow the actions of the brain and spinal cord, taking them together is dangerous because they can slow your central nervous system down too much. This results in significant sedation and challenges accomplishing physical and mental tasks, which are often vital to alertness and safety. In the most severe cases, combining alcohol and Benadryl (or “double-dipping”) can increase the likelihood of an accident or lead to unconsciousness or a potentially fatal medical emergency. 

In addition to various complications related to central nervous system depression, both alcohol and Benadryl can cause dehydration.  Combining the dehydrating effects of both substances can lead to other medical difficulties such as reduced blood pressure and constipation. Benadryl also affects the actions of specific neurotransmitters in the brain. One such neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, is primarily responsible for essential functions like memory and learning. 

When misused or abused, Benadryl on its own can contribute to difficulties with memory; however, when combined with alcohol, short-term memory function may be drastically impaired. The formulary content of Benadryl poses an additional potential danger when mixed with alcohol. Some medications, such as cough syrups, laxatives, and Benadryl, contain up to ten percent of alcohol as part of their content. If alcohol is combined with another medication that contains alcohol, it can lead to severe and potentially fatal outcomes. 

On their own, alcohol and Benadryl may increase your risk of dementia. Studies have shown excessive and chronic alcohol use is associated with a higher risk of dementia and other new or worsening mental health conditions. Similar studies have pointed to an increased risk for dementia in patients who take at least one antihistamine drug per day over the course of three years. There are also specific concerns and complications regarding alcohol and Benadryl in elderly patients. As our body ages, the functionality of various organs also decreases. 

For example, with age, the volume and blood flow of the liver decreases. This means the body’s ability to metabolize medications and alcohol into inactive compounds destined to be removed from the body is also reduced. The same is true for many other organs, including the heart, kidneys, and others. As the functions of these organs are reduced, the duration of the therapeutic and adverse effects of Benadryl and alcohol will be prolonged as the body’s ability to metabolize and excrete these substances is vastly reduced. In the case of Benadryl or alcohol, the sedative effects of these drugs will remain active in the body for longer times, increasing the risk of falls and other associated injuries.

When and Why You Should Seek Treatment

An addiction to drugs of any form is dangerous. Because Benadryl is available without a prescription, it is natural for people to believe that it is safe. However, Benadryl has many of the same addictive qualities as other prescription drugs and some street drugs. When combined with alcohol, misuse of Benadryl can be dangerous and potentially fatal. 

Improperly using multiple substances, such as Benadryl and alcohol together, is referred to as polysubstance or polydrug abuse, and it is dangerous. The combined effects of alcohol and Benadryl enhance the desired effect of the individual drugs and enhance the potentially harmful side effects of each drug. It is important to remember that mixing drugs can bring about unpredictable consequences. Also, the short-term and long-term impacts of polysubstance abuse are challenging for medical professionals to predict as they vary based on the combination and amount of substances used.

Withdrawal from multiple substances is significantly more complicated than withdrawal from one substance. For this reason, it is vital (and potentially lifesaving) to undergo detox in an inpatient, medically supervised setting like The Hills in Los Angeles, CA. During a medically supervised detox program, you will be provided with continual, 24 hour per day supervision by highly trained medical professionals. They will be available to monitor your vital signs (including blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature) and to intervene in the case of a medical emergency. Depending on your individual situation, staff can also administer medications to help reduce the intensity and severity of specific withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawing from alcohol on its own can be difficult. However, withdrawing from alcohol simultaneously with another substance such as Benadryl (which also contains alcohol) adds to the potential risk. For this reason, continual monitoring is essential to ensuring your safety. The supports and encouragement provided in a medically supervised detox program in Los Angeles decreases the likelihood of relapse after treatment and increases your chances of successfully and safely transitioning into a therapy program.

Although completing detox removes the immediate dangers of polysubstance abuse, it is not an effective standalone treatment for an addiction to alcohol and Benadryl. Detox must be followed by evidence-based, comprehensive addiction treatment that includes therapy to help you learn more about the roots of your addiction and better understand the triggers that further addictive behaviors. Therapy for substance use disorders often includes various types of psychotherapy. The most common type of therapy used in addiction treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on encouraging the participants to examine and analyze their thoughts and behaviors to understand the causes of their addiction better. As treatment progresses, they are encouraged to modify their thoughts and behaviors to promote safer and healthier responses to events, situations, and people that would once have resulted in turning to substances as a coping mechanism.

Addiction is a unique struggle. Although two people may struggle with an addiction to Benadryl and alcohol, the symptoms and challenges they face as they seek sobriety will be different. Because of this, any addiction treatment program must be tailored to each person’s individual needs and goals to increase chances for treatment success. In addition to therapy designed to meet your specific treatment needs, it is vital to ensure that the overall treatment program addresses you as an entire person. This means providing therapy opportunities that address not only the addiction but your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs in a comprehensive and holistic way. In situations where polysubstance abuse is a concern, an effective treatment also requires identifying the reasons and circumstances that led to the desire to abuse any substance and addressing those issues individually and appropriately.

At The Hills, we understand the challenges and unique difficulties that often accompany addiction. As you progress through your treatment and recovery here in Los Angeles, it may be necessary to make various alterations to your treatment plan, especially if a particular therapy or activity is proving ineffective. With the appropriate comprehensive care, it is possible for someone struggling with an addiction to Benadryl and alcohol to safely and effectively achieve sobriety. The decision to seek treatment is challenging; however, acknowledging your struggle with substances is an essential first step towards a healthy, addiction-free lifestyle. 

At The Hills, our carrying compassionate treatment staff will work with you to design a comprehensive treatment plan based on evidence-based therapies that have proven effective in addiction treatment. We also offer a wide range of alternative therapies not found in many traditional treatment settings at our luxury Los Angeles facility. Our highly trained team of medical providers, therapy providers, nutritionists, and essential support staff will be here to guide you as you begin your journey to recovery, starting with detox and ending with a robust and uniquely designed aftercare plan designed to help keep you engaged and immersed in your recovery. Because treatment does not end upon discharge from a 30-, 60-, or 90-day addiction treatment program, comprehensive aftercare is essential to maintaining ongoing recovery in practicing the relapse prevention skills learned here at The Hills. As you approach the end of your treatment plan, our team will work with you to design an aftercare plan that includes continuing therapy and access to support groups and other community supports. These essential treatment components can help you continue to practice and strengthen vital coping skills learned throughout treatment. 

Polysubstance abuse can lead to severe consequences. If you or a loved one struggle with a dependency on alcohol and Benadryl, don’t wait another day to seek help. Let the staff at The Hills in Los Angeles help you take those first steps towards a future free of substances.



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