8 million Canadians are living with chronic pain symptoms, which experts expect to reach 9 million by 2030. Yet, this number doesn’t consider how many Canadians deal with acute pain daily. NSAIDs like naproxen are among the most commonly used medications for acute and chronic pain. Many doctors prefer drugs like naproxen because they are low-risk and relatively safe. However, combining naproxen and alcohol may present risks. Learn why and what to do about it in this guide.
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The Effects of Mixing Naproxen With Alcohol
Mixing naproxen and alcohol can be damaging to the gut and gastrointestinal system. However, there are ways to consume alcohol with this medication safely.
What Is Naproxen?
Naproxen (Aleve) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat pain. It is particularly helpful for certain types of pain, including arthritis, migraines, menstrual cramps, and lower back pain (LBP).
This is not the only type of NSAID. Another well-known over-the-counter drug in this class is ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Compared to ibuprofen, naproxen is slower to relieve pain but offers longer-lasting effects.
How Does Naproxen Work?
Naproxen works by reducing levels of inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is part of the immune response to invading pathogens or tissue damage. In moderation, inflammation is a good thing.
However, inflammation is also responsible for the sensation of pain. To alleviate pain, a drug must target the inflammation. The many types of painkillers go about reducing inflammation differently.
For example, NSAIDs like naproxen target the cyclooxygenase (COX) pathway. The COX pathway has many functions, one of which is to increase the production of a hormone-like substance called prostaglandin.
Prostaglandins have many roles in the body. One of them is to control inflammation and pain. These hormone-like substances also affect uterine contractions, which may explain naproxen’s benefits for menstrual pain.
Compare how naproxen relieves pain to other painkillers. For example, paracetamol is a painkiller that works by interacting with the serotonergic pathway. This pathway communicates pain signals to the brain.
Paracetamol blocks these signals. As a result, the brain does not perceive pain. However, this painkiller does not affect inflammation levels in the way NSAIDs like naproxen do.
Is Naproxen Addictive?
No, naproxen is not addictive because it does not interact with the brain’s dopamine reward system. The dopamine reward system is the underlying factor in all substances of abuse, regardless of their unique pharmacology.
Still, just because naproxen is non-addictive does not mean it is safe to take with other drugs or take too much. Always take naproxen as prescribed or according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
How Much Naproxen Is Safe to Use?
How much naproxen is safe to use depends on strength, dose, and number of doses per day. It also depends on the type of condition someone uses naproxen for. Always consult a doctor about how much naproxen to use to be safe.
Side Effects of Naproxen
Naproxen features multiple common side effects, as well as some that are less known but can be severe. The symptoms people frequently report experiencing due to naproxen are:
- Tightness in the chest
- Trouble breathing
- Itchy skin
- Chest pain
- Stomach pain
One side effect to worry about with naproxen is overdose. Bleeding beneath the skin, extreme confusion, muscle tremors, restlessness, and sleepiness may indicate a naproxen overdose and require medical attention ASAP.
Some people experience tinnitus and hearing loss when starting a naproxen regimen. However, these disturbances are usually temporary. For most people, the symptoms reside once the body gets used to the new drug.
Other potential negative consequences of using NSAIDs like naproxen are heart failure, kidney failure, irregular heartbeat, and stomach ulcers. These symptoms are rare. However, people already at risk for these health issues should consult their doctor to be on the safe side.
How Long Does Naproxen Stay in Your System?
Naproxen stays in your system for 93 to 94 hours or nearly four days. Experts calculate this estimate using naproxen’s half-life. A half-life is how long it takes the body to eliminate half of a substance.
In naproxen’s case, the half-life is 12 to 17 hours. The range is so wide because many factors impact someone’s ability to metabolize drugs. These factors include age, gender, and health.
Scientists agree that it takes the body five to six half-lives to eliminate a drug, explaining the 93 to 94-hour range.
Can I Take Naproxen After Drinking Alcohol?
Yes, you can take naproxen after drinking alcohol if you drink in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol before naproxen is out of someone’s system can increase the risk of certain side effects like stomach ulcers.
What does it mean to drink in moderation? In Canada, experts recommend having up to two standard drinks per week. One standard drink equals a 12-oz bottle of beer, a 5-oz glass of wine, or a 1.5-oz shot of liquor.
Side Effects of Mixing Naproxen With Alcohol
There are acute and long-term side effects of drinking with naproxen. The short-term side effects come from the fact that alcohol and naproxen are both stomach irritants. The chronic effects are a bit more complex.
Learn more about the acute and chronic results of drinking with NSAIDs next.
Mixing alcohol and naproxen can cause gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. It may occur due to the formation of ulcers or from gastritis.
Gastritis is an inflammatory condition affecting the gut lining. Alcohol and NSAIDs can each cause gastritis alone. The risk of developing gastritis increases when people combine these substances.
Dependence and Addiction
As mentioned, naproxen is non-addictive. However, taking naproxen with alcohol increases the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Alcohol and naproxen can each cause overdose when consumed in excess or, in alcohol’s case, too quickly. Taking NSAIDs and drinking alcohol can make overdosing on either or both substances more likely.
Drinking alcohol with naproxen may worsen this NSAID’s side effects. For example, we mentioned that heart failure and arrhythmia are rare but possible symptoms of using naproxen. These side effects are more common in people who take too much naproxen or drink with NSAIDs.
Alcohol presents the risk of liver damage. While naproxen does not directly affect the liver, it can impact the kidneys. The kidneys and the liver are connected, meaning naproxen may worsen alcohol’s effects on the liver and vice versa.
Long-Term Effects of Mixing Naproxen With Alcohol
People who need naproxen for chronic pain relief may worry about the long-term effects of combining their medication with alcohol. Not drinking or drinking in moderation are the best strategies to stay safe.
However, ‘not drinking’ can be easier said than done. Many Canadians struggle to reduce their alcohol use despite potential health impacts, which may indicate an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
The good news is that treatment can help people stop drinking and stay sober. They can improve their overall health and outlook on life while reducing the risk of interactions with OTC painkillers like naproxen.
Treatment for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
People struggling to stop drinking, even though they are at risk for the side effects of combining NSAIDs with alcohol, can benefit from treatment.
Simcoe Addiction and Mental Health is a rehab centre in Ontario that helps people with alcohol addictions start their journey to recovery. We offer detox and withdrawal management services, inpatient programmes, and more.
Some may not have found the answers they’ve been searching for in our guide so far. So, here is a brief list of more frequently asked questions about alcohol and naproxen.
Can You Buy Naproxen Over the Counter in Canada?
You can buy naproxen over the counter in Canada if it is low-strength. Low-strength naproxen contains 400 milligrams or less of this active ingredient.
People who want higher-strength naproxen can consult with a doctor. Doctors can prescribe stronger naproxen medications.
If you are searching for a high-strength NSAID available over the counter, try ibuprofen. Most ibuprofen products are available without a prescription in Canada.
How Soon After Taking Naproxen Can I Drink Alcohol?
You can drink alcohol 12 to 17 hours after taking naproxen. You can also drink alcohol before this if you drink in moderation and take naproxen according to a doctor’s or the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Some individuals may want to avoid alcohol while taking naproxen. For example, people at risk for or with pre-existing liver, kidney, heart, or GI issues may experience more serious side effects.
In that case, it is always a good idea to talk to a doctor if you are unsure or concerned about potential adverse side effects.
Get Help to Avoid the Risks of Using Naproxen and Alcohol
So, can you drink on naproxen? Yes, naproxen and alcohol (AKA Aleve and alcohol) are safe to combine as long you drink in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol with naproxen or using too much of this NSAID can cause side effects like GI bleeding, gastritis, or heart and liver damage.
If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol addiction in Ontario, Simcoe is waiting for your call. Contact us to learn more about our programmes and how we can support your journey to recovery.