Naproxen and Alcohol

Estimated reading time: 31 minute(s)

Naproxen is an over-the-counter painkiller medication prescribed to manage pain secondary to inflammatory conditions. Belonging to the category of medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), it can effectively control swelling and aches in the joints related to conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. Many people may also be tempted to use it for everyday aches, such as severe headaches resistant to milder pain relief medications.

While naproxen is widely viewed as a safe medication for daily use, it carries a risk of causing numerous side effects, especially when combined with other substances like alcohol. While an occasional indulgence in a drink or two may not drastically impact the safety risk in a person taking this medication, mixing the two regularly or in higher doses may lead to serious consequences, such as ulcers and gastritis. Familiarizing yourself with the possible risks of combining naproxen and alcohol is necessary to mitigate these side effects and maintain good health.

What Happens if You Mix Naproxen and Alcohol?

Mixing naproxen and alcohol can be very risky, especially due to how the latter works in the body. Belonging to the category of medications called NSAIDs, naproxen suppresses the production of prostaglandins, the natural chemicals in the body responsible for causing inflammation and swelling.

While this is a positive effect for people with long-term inflammatory conditions, it also messes with the gastroprotective effect of these chemicals.  Prostaglandins target the stomach and thicken its cell lining to protect it from various types of corrosives, such as the organ’s own acid. With their reduced levels in the gut, the stomach is exposed to all sorts of damage due to substances, including alcohol, putting the digestive system at risk of various long-term side effects mentioned below:


Alcohol is a known risk factor for triggering inflammation in different parts of the body. When this inflammation hits the joints, it is known as arthritis. Naproxen and other NSAIDs are commonly used to manage these joint swellings and inflammation. However, using the medication with alcohol may interfere with the former and reduce its efficacy. Consequently, a person taking naproxen while drinking may not appreciate its analgesic effect and feel constant pain.

The side effects of combining arthritis with alcohol may vary depending on how much a person drinks and how frequently. Moreover, the daily dose of naproxen may also play a crucial role in the severity and nature of side effects a person experiences.


Gastritis is a medical term used to define a condition in which the liver swells up and inflames. It is one of the most considerable risks in people taking long-term NSAIDs, including naproxen, and to mitigate it, experts always recommend combining the medication with a gastro-protective substance. Alcohol, on the other hand, is also an irritant of the stomach that can cause swelling and inflammation within the gland. Combined, both naproxen and alcohol can raise the risk of causing gastritis and its associated symptoms, such as vomiting, nausea, and severe burning in the stomach area.

In some cases, the condition may persist without causing any side effects and may not show up until it gets severe. Even when it remains asymptomatic, gastritis can quickly lead to complications, such as the following:

  • Ulcers in the gut
  • Permanent damage to the cells lining the stomach
  • Deficiency of vitamin B12, leading to permanent nerve damage and mental issues
  • Low blood iron, leading to poor oxygenation across the body

Increased Risk of Bleeding

The human body contains three types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Platelets are responsible for clotting activities, which help the body stop active bleeding points wherever they exist. Using alcohol can mess with the synthesis of platelets, making it difficult for the body to control bleeding. This condition can be particularly damaging and dangerous for people who start bleeding internally without knowing and may not be able to stop it on its own.

When such people who are already at a high bleeding risk start using naproxen or other NSAIDs, this risk significantly increases. This increased risk is due to the fact that naproxen reduces a chemical called prostaglandin in the stomach which protects it from the corrosive effects of medications. As a result, the stomach is at high risk of getting damaged and bleeding. In the absence of enough platelets due to chronic alcohol use, this bleeding may not stop, potentiating a life-threatening series of events.

Mixing Alcohol and Naproxen: Can it Cause Addiction?

It is a standard rule for all healthcare practitioners to check all medications a patient is already taking before prescribing a new one. The reason why they counter-check this is to minimize the possible drug interactions that may take place between two possible drugs or substances, exerting adverse effects on the user’s health and leading to life-threatening issues. Hence, whenever a doctor puts you on a new medication, primarily an NSAID like naproxen, ensure that you tell them about all substances you are currently on, including alcohol, to avoid any risks.

A person who keeps combining alcohol with naproxen not only puts themselves at a higher risk of experiencing NSAID-related side effects but may end up developing an addiction to alcohol. Moreover, the combination may also:

  • Exacerbate the side effects of naproxen
  • Put a person at a higher risk of experiencing mental and physical dependence on alcohol
  • Trigger alcohol addiction in a person
  • Increase the risk of experiencing an overdose due to either of the substances

Naproxen, on its own, is not necessarily risky. However, many people may become habitual in mixing it with alcohol. Regular mixing of both substances can exacerbate this dependency, putting a person at risk of acquiring an addiction. Once addiction happens, it can be hard to stop consuming alcohol until professional help is sought. 

How to Prevent Naproxen and Alcohol Side Interaction and Side Effects

Experts recommend following the tips mentioned below to minimize the dangers of drinking alcohol with naproxen:

Drink alcohol safely

Combining alcohol with naproxen may not pose a significant threat to everyday health, especially if a person is mindful of how much they drink. Conduct research about the safe limit for daily alcohol use and stick to it. Remember that this daily limit may vary based on gender.

Take naproxen as instructed

Take naproxen precisely as a healthcare provider has instructed you to. Many people may be tempted to increase the dose for greater pain relief; however, this only puts them at a higher risk of acquiring side effects, such as internal bleeding.

Do not combine naproxen with other NSAID drug

If you are already on naproxen, avoid taking other medication in the same drug class, such as ibuprofen. Combining two similar drugs with alcohol consumption can invariably increase the risk of side effects.

Protect yourself with a PPI

A proton pump inhibitor or a PPI is what many experts recommend people take as long as they are taking an NSAID, especially in the long run. This medication works by protecting the stomach lining, which may be compromised due to naproxen’s effects on prostaglandins. This strengthening medication also keeps the stomach safe from the harmful effects of alcohol.

Managing Naproxen and Alcohol Addiction

If you know someone who has been taking naproxen with alcohol for a long-time despite experiencing the side effects, it may be because that they have developed a dependence on alcohol or are now addicted. Such people may find it very difficult to stop abusing both drugs, no matter how dangerous it is. For such people, the best way out is through enrollment in a professional rehab where they can seek detoxification services and other therapeutic counseling sessions to move towards recovery slowly.

People who have been mixing alcohol and naproxen for a long time should never try to quit these substances on their own. Quitting cold turkey is possible but may come with the risk of possible withdrawal symptoms, which may include the following:

  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Nervousness
  • Blurred thinking
  • Hallucinations
  • Clammy skin
  • Shakiness

A rehabilitation center ensures that all patients go through this withdrawal phase comfortably under 24/7 expert supervision. Known as detox services, they also include the provision of therapy and controlled medication to alleviate some of the severe withdrawal symptoms. Following a detox, addicts can phase into an inpatient or outpatient program depending on the severity of their underlying addiction. Inpatient programs are best for people with severe issues as they allow them to stay in supervised accommodation for a dedicated time while engaging in well-structured therapies. Outpatient programs, on the other hand, offer more flexibility to accommodate people with daily responsibilities. Most rehab programs also have aftercare services and additional components to make patients as independent as possible, even after they have left the treatment facility.

Remember that the combination of naproxen and alcohol can put a person at variable risks. Hence, seeking help for the problem as soon as possible is highly recommended to preserve health and ensure a risk-free life.


Can you drink on naproxen?

Drinking moderate levels of alcohol while taking naproxen simultaneously is usually safe, and the combination is very unlikely to cause any harmful effects. However, some people may experience some unpleasant effects, especially if they take either of the substances in doses higher than recommended. Hence, if you wish to consume alcohol while completing the naproxen course, it is essential to conduct some research and find out the recommended daily alcohol intake that you can safely follow while taking a medication. Most naproxen and alcohol side effects that people encounter are mild and tolerable. Rarely, some may develop a few issues severe enough to interfere with their normal life.

What are the common side effects of drinking with naproxen?

Drinking and using naproxen simultaneously can lead to the following side effects.

  • Nausea
  • Back pain
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Yellowed eyes or skin

What is the safest amount of naproxen and alcohol I can use together?

Combining naproxen with moderate levels of alcohol is generally safe and unlikely to cause any major side effects. However, experts still recommend waiting for at least 12 hours, if not more, after the last dose of the medication to have a drink. The half-life of naproxen is between 12 to 17 hours but may change depending on individual factors and the dose consumed.

Is it safe to combine naproxen and alcohol in any amounts?

The general advice most experts provide is to avoid combining naproxen and alcohol for as long as possible. The safe levels of this drug may vary depending on factors like age, the amount of naproxen and alcohol a person is taking, their frequency, and their general state of health. People with ongoing kidney and liver issues may generally be advised to avoid taking the combination, even in moderate doses, as their body cannot process or excrete them as efficiently as a healthy person.

I accidentally drank while taking naproxen. What to do next?

As long as you take both substances within safe limits, the threat to health is minimal. However, because every person is different, some may be more sensitive to this combination than others. Hence, experts advise closely monitoring the body and monitoring yourself for any side effects. Do not hesitate to see a doctor if you experience anything out of the blue in the next 24 to 48 hours.

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