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Naproxen is a painkiller commonly prescribed for joint pain and muscle ache. It is a weak opioid generally favoured over other drugs of a similar class due to its non-addictive nature and fewer side effects. However, its relatively better safety profile does not mean naproxen suits, everyone. 

While experts deem it safe for consumption in smaller doses, combining it with certain substances, such as alcohol, can be particularly dangerous. Both naproxen and alcohol have their own set of potential health risks, and their combination may even prove deadly, especially if the latter is taken in high quantities.

If you have been prescribed naproxen to deal with a health issue, it is advised to be careful of your alcohol intake. Ideally, the combination of both should be avoided as naproxen, an anti-inflammatory drug can mess with your stomach, and alcohol will only worsen this side effect. Seeking alcohol addiction treatment is indicated in people who fail to stop mixing both due to an underlying alcohol abuse disorder.

Belonging to the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) class, naproxen is a painkiller, very similar to aspirin and ibuprofen. It is commonly used to manage tenderness and pain associated with osteoarthritis, menstrual periods, and rheumatoid arthritis. Due to its low addictive potential, naproxen is commonly available over the counter under different brand names.

Despite being safe and free of health risks, taking naproxen and alcohol together can lead to uncomfortable side effects. These side effects may include:

  • nausea
  • constipation
  • back pain
  • heartburn
  • headache
  • drowsiness
  • yellowed eyes or skin
  • dizziness
  • high blood pressure
  • ringing in the ears

These side effects are acute and may resolve once the alcohol and naproxen make their way out of the body. However, certain long-term risks still persist if the combination of both is continued.

Combining naproxen 500 mg and alcohol can increase the risk of the following severe health conditions:

Bleeding

Taking naproxen whilst drinking alcohol can heighten the risk of bleeding severalfold. This is especially true for people with a long history of alcohol abuse. Alcohol inhibits the ability of the body to make more platelets, a type of blood cell required for clotting. Adding naproxen to your drinking habits can lead to prolonged wound bleeding. The situation can be hazardous if the injury is internal and you are unaware of the active bleeding.

Gastritis

Gastritis is one of the most common consequences of combining NSAIDs like naproxen with alcohol. Gastritis refers to the swelling of cells lining the inside of the stomach. Both alcohol and NSAIDS can trigger this inflammation independently, and combining them only worsens the problem.

Gastritis is typically an uncomfortable condition that may force the sufferer to become nauseated or experience stomach pain that does not go away. In some cases,  gastritis does not trigger any symptoms at all; however, this does not mean to stop worrying about the stomach damage from mixing naproxen and alcohol.

Sometimes, gastritis can lead to other serious consequences, such as ulcers in the stomach, low blood iron, vitamin B12 deficiency, and benign and cancerous growths in the stomach. The best way to avoid these consequences is by not mixing the two offenders mentioned above.

Dependence & Addiction

Combining naproxen with alcohol also increases the risk of developing dependence and, consequently, addiction. While naproxen does not have high abuse liability, alcohol does; hence, the two must be refrained from being taken together.

Overdose

Overdose is perhaps one of the most serious and potentially fatal acute outcomes of consuming alcohol with naproxen. Drinking high quantities of alcohol can quickly impair the user’s judgement, who may take more naproxen than recommended. This unintentional overdose, if left untreated, may prove fatal.

Heart Problems

NSAIDs such as naproxen also increase the risk of strokes or heart attacks. This is because naproxen targets and enhances the working of a specific enzyme that promotes clotting. With higher clotting in the body, the risk of a vessel getting blocked in the heart or brain heightens.

Liver Damage

While naproxen does not usually mess with the liver, alcohol can. Someone who is already a binge drinker or a regular alcohol abuser can acquire severe liver damage or a liver disease by combining it with naproxen. Common liver disease symptoms include persistent nausea and vomiting, jaundice, decreased appetite, and darkened urine.

If you are an occasional or frequent drinker and have been taking naproxen for some time, contact a doctor immediately if you notice:

  • Blood in stool or vomit
  • Persistent cramps or pain in the stomach
  • Fainting
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness

A doctor might be able to rule out the possibility of a potential overdose or internal bleeding and provide medical assistance as required.

If you have been prescribed naproxen for an underlying medical issue but cannot quit alcohol immediately for whatsoever reason, here are some ways to reduce the possibility of the side effects:

Do not combine any other NSAID with naproxen

All NSAIDS carry the potential to induce gastritis and stomach bleeds, and adding them with your daily naproxen dose can significantly increase the risk. Hence, it is only best to use one NSAID at a time and stop every other painkiller for the time being.

Use Naproxen as directed

Avoid using naproxen in higher doses or for longer than recommended, especially if you are taking alcohol simultaneously. Overusing this pain reliever can increase the risk of stomach bleeds and other side effects. Moreover, taking naproxen too long with alcohol can exert risks similar to acute naproxen overdose.

Consider your health history

Do not combine naproxen and alcohol without consulting a doctor, especially if you have a history of stomach ulcers or bleeding problems.

Take a proton pump inhibitor (PPI)

If you have just started consuming naproxen 500 mg over the counter, add a PPI with it. A PPI can protect the lining of the stomach from the harsh effects of NSAIDs.

If you or someone you love has been mixing naproxen with alcohol for a long time, addiction treatment might be required before things take a turn for the worse. An alcohol treatment rehab typically offers a detoxification support programme to kick out all residues of alcohol from the body in a safe environment. Following detox, other treatment programmes are offered for the next stage of recovery. Most rehabs offer different levels of care, including residential treatment, intensive outpatient care, and partial hospitalisation programmes. Of these, inpatient treatment is considered the most secure and highly effective as it requires patients to stay on-campus under medical surveillance. Various therapies are offered daily to build their recoveries, such as one-on-one and group counselling, medication-assisted treatment, support groups, and recreational activities.

For more flexible scheduling, outpatient treatment or partial hospitalisation programmes can be availed. These programmes are less supervised and intensive but often contain many similar components of treatments in their usual rigorous schedules. Many quality rehabs offer specialised care for all co-occurring disorders to help those with additional health diagnoses.

To learn more about the dangers of naproxen and alcohol or get answers to questions about alcohol addiction treatment, reach out to an addiction specialist today.

Drinking alcohol with naproxen is safe if you take both in moderation under careful supervision. However, there is always a risk of acquiring adverse effects of different types with this combination. In this instance, both alcohol and naproxen can negatively impact the gastrointestinal tract, and a combination of both can significantly worsen them.

Experts highly recommend sticking to the recommended daily alcohol intake if abstinence is not possible while taking naproxen precisely as prescribed by the doctor. Extra precautions can be observed by adding a PPI to your daily regimen to minimise side effects further. Seeking treatment for alcohol addiction can also be a helpful way to minimise the risk, primarily if you or your loved one is exhibiting all the classic signs of dependence.

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