Updated on November 22, 2023
5 min read

Nyquil and Alcohol Interactions

Key Takeaways

Are you wondering if mixing alcohol and Nyquil is safe? This question may arise for many who've relied on both to help with cold or flu symptoms.

While mixing Nyquil and alcohol may seem like a good idea, you must understand how your body could react to the combination before doing something that could cause serious damage.

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.

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

Mixing NyQuil with alcohol produces various side effects due to drug interactions. NyQuil and alcohol 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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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, and combining the two can cause severe damage or lead to overdose.

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

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What is NyQuil?

Nyquil is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Its producer, Procter & Gamble, first introduced it in 1966.

Nyquil treats flu and nighttime cold symptoms. It also relieves symptoms of asthma and chronic bronchitis.

These symptoms include:

  • Sneeze
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Minor aches and pains
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Insomnia

NyQuil's Active Ingredients

NyQuil has three active ingredients:

  • Acetaminophen: A pain reliever/fever reducer
  • Dextromethorphan HBr: A cough suppressant
  • Doxylamine succinate: An antihistamine

Doxylamine succinate, like many antihistamines, is a depressant and has a sedative effect.

Nyquil 1

NyQuil Forms, DayQuil, and Dosage Guidelines

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

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 There Alcohol in NyQuil?

NyQuil Liquid contains 10 percent alcohol. 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.

Other ingredients in NyQuil include:

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

Other Medications to Avoid While Taking NyQuil

Besides alcohol, other medications should not be mixed with NyQuil. These include:

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. This increases 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:

Be sure to read the labels carefully before taking any medication besides NyQuil. Contact your local pharmacy or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

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.

DXM is often abused in its original form or mixed with soda and candy for flavor. This is called "robo-tripping," "skittling," or "dexing." Users can snort, inject, or combine it with other drugs like alcohol and marijuana.

In high doses, DXM produces a similar effect to hallucinogenic drugs like PCP or ketamine. It causes a pleasurable increase in the amount of 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, Dependency, and Tolerance

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

Misuse and Limitations of NyQuil

Misuse of NyQuil also includes taking too much of it for the wrong reasons. NyQuil is meant to treat short-term symptoms and not cure long-term health problems.

You shouldn't use it for more than seven days. NyQuil isn't a safe treatment for insomnia, and you shouldn't use it as a sleep aid.

NyQuil Withdrawal Symptoms

People can develop a dependency on NyQuil and may experience withdrawal symptoms. These signs of withdrawal include:

  • 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


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 November 22, 2023
11 sources cited
Updated on November 22, 2023
  1. Budnitz et al. “Emergency department visits for overdoses of acetaminophen-containing products.American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2011.

  2. Commonly Used Drugs Charts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020.

  3. DEXTROMETHORPHAN." Drug Enforcement Administration, 2019.

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

  5. National Institute of Drug Abuse. “Drug Facts: Cough and Cold Medicine Abuse.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2014.

  6. Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drugs of Abuse.” U.S. Department of Justice, 2017.

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

  8. May, M.E. "Dextromethorphan Abuse." National Capital Poison Center, n.d.

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

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

  11. Get Smart About Drugs: A DEA Resource for Parents. “Prescription for Disaster: How Teens Misuse Medicine.” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 2018.

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