Updated on February 6, 2024
4 min read

Can You Mix Nyquil and Alcohol?

Key Takeaways

Can You Mix NyQuil and Alcohol?

You should never drink alcohol and NyQuil together. Procter & Gamble warns that severe liver damage can occur if you take NyQuil with three or more alcoholic beverages.1

This is due to the drug's component, acetaminophen, which can induce liver damage in toxic doses. Due to the many short-term and long-term effects, consuming alcohol with NyQuil isn't recommended.

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NyQuil and Alcohol Side Effects

NyQuil and alcohol's interaction cause many of the same side effects, including:

  • Sedation
  • Coordination issues
  • Elevated heart rate

Short-Term Side Effects

The short-term side effects of mixing NyQuil and alcohol include:

  • Increased sedation and drowsiness
  • Coordination issues
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach

Alcohol also impairs the body's immune system, making it harder for the body to recover from illness. An impaired immune system can cause NyQuil to be ineffective.

Long-Term Side Effects

Long-term consequences of mixing NyQuil and alcohol include liver damage and addiction. At high doses, drinking alcohol with NyQuil is extremely dangerous and can lead to overdose and death. 

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NyQuil Overdose Symptoms

Combining NyQuil and one or two drinks usually won't cause serious issues. But if you take more than the recommended amount of NyQuil or drink a lot of alcohol, you may overdose.

If you have any of the following symptoms, contact 911 immediately for emergency help:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Abdominal pain
  • Severe agitation or irritability
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark urine
  • Yellow color in your eyes or skin

Dangers of Mixing NyQuil and Alcohol

Mixing NyQuil and alcohol is very dangerous. The risks of mixing NyQuil and alcohol include:

  • Addiction
  • Impaired immune system
  • Liver damage or failure
  • Increased risk for overdose
  • Increased risk of accidental death

NyQuil contains acetaminophen, which is hard on the liver. Alcohol is also toxic to the liver, so combining the two can cause severe damage or lead to overdose.

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Other Medications to Avoid While Taking NyQuil

Besides alcohol, you shouldn't mix these medications with NyQuil:

Drugs with Acetaminophen

NyQuil already contains acetaminophen. Taking other medications that contain the same drug may cause you to take more than the recommended daily dose, increasing your chances of liver damage.

Many OTC and prescription medications contain acetaminophen. Paracetamol is another name for acetaminophen. Tylenol is the most common brand name for acetaminophen in the United States.

Common Medications with Acetaminophen to Avoid with NyQuil

The common medications that may include acetaminophen that you shouldn't mix with NyQuil include:

Read the labels carefully before taking any medication besides NyQuil. Contact your local pharmacy or healthcare provider with any questions or concerns.

NyQuil's Active Ingredients

NyQuil has three active ingredients:

  • Acetaminophen: A pain reliever or fever reducer
  • Dextromethorphan HBr: A cough suppressant
  • Doxylamine succinate: An antihistamine that's a depressant with sedative effect

Other ingredients in NyQuil include:

  • Polyethylene glycol
  • Propylene glycol
  • Sodium citrate
  • Flavor
  • High-fructose corn syrup
Nyquil 1

Is There Alcohol in NyQuil?

NyQuil Liquid contains 10 percent alcohol.2 This amount of alcohol acts as a solvent to keep the top three ingredients liquid.

However, some varieties of NyQuil are alcohol-free. These include NyQuil LiquiCaps and Alcohol-Free NyQuil Cold & Flu Nighttime Relief Liquid.

NyQuil Forms, DayQuil, and Dosage Guidelines

NyQuil is a liquid cough syrup or liquicap (liquid inside the capsule). Another formula is available to treat advanced common cold and flu symptoms.

Procter & Gamble also produces DayQuil, a daytime cold medicine. Its formula is similar to NyQuil without the sedative effects.

Adults and children over 12 should take one dose of Nyquil every 6 hours while symptoms last. People should not exceed four doses in 24 hours.

Is NyQuil Addictive?

Yes, because one of NyQuil's main ingredients is dextromethorphan or DXM. DXM is an addictive drug that users often abuse for its euphoric effects.

  • Users abuse DXM in its original form or combine it with soda and candy for flavor
  • Abusers snort, inject, or combine it with other drugs like alcohol and marijuana
  • High doses of DXM produce a similar effect to hallucinogenic drugs like PCP or ketamine
  • DXM causes a pleasurable increase in dopamine in the brain's reward pathway

Users describe effects ranging from mild stimulation to alcohol or marijuana-like intoxication. At high doses, users report feeling sensations of physical distortion and hallucinations.

NyQuil Addiction Symptoms

People develop an addiction over time and start to crave DXM. Even users who use NyQuil for its intended purpose may develop a dependency or tolerance.

If you develop a tolerance, you'll need a larger amount or more frequent doses to achieve the same effect. The symptoms of NyQuil addiction include:

  • A strong desire or compulsion to take NyQuil
  • Reduced ability to control the use of the drug
  • Physical withdrawal symptoms when attempting to reduce the use of NyQuil, which resolves when NyQuil use resumes
  • Increased tolerance
  • Neglecting other areas of life due to NyQuil use
  • Difficulty sleeping without the drug's help

NyQuil Withdrawal Symptoms

Those who are dependent on NyQuil may experience withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Overactive reflexes
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe cravings for NyQuil or other medications with similar ingredients

Summary

Mixing NyQuil and alcohol is dangerous and can have serious consequences. It increases the chance of an overdose, liver damage, impaired immune system, and addiction.

Moreover, you shouldn't use NyQuil as a sleep aid or for long-term treatment of symptoms. If you take more than the recommended dose, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Talking to your doctor before taking NyQuil and other medications is best. They can help you understand the possible risks and decide if it's a safe choice for you.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
12 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. "NyQuil DrugFacts." Procter & Gamble.

  2. "FAQS: NyQuil." Vicks.

  3. Budnitz et al. “Emergency department visits for overdoses of acetaminophen-containing products.American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2011.

  4. Commonly Used Drugs Charts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2023.

  5. DEXTROMETHORPHAN." Drug Enforcement Administration, 2019.

  6. Di Justo, P. “What's Inside: NyQuil, Fortified With Powerful Narcotics!” Wired, 2007.

  7. Drugs of Abuse.” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 2017.

  8. Martinak et al. “Dextromethorphan in Cough Syrup: The Poor Man's Psychosis.Psychopharmacology Bulletin, 2017.

  9. May, M. "Dextromethorphan Abuse." National Capital Poison Center.

  10. Mutschler et al. “Dextromethorphan Withdrawal and Dependence Syndrome.” Deutsches Arzteblatt International, 2010.

  11. "Over-the-Counter Medicines DrugFacts." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2017.

  12. Prescription for Disaster: How Teens Misuse Medicine.” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 2018.

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