Updated on August 3, 2023
6 min read

Can You Safely Drink Alcohol While on Penicillin?

Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol While Taking Penicillin?

Moderate alcohol consumption doesn't reduce the effectiveness of most antibiotics, including penicillin. However, drinking alcohol can reduce your energy and delay how quickly you recover from illness. It’s best to avoid consuming alcohol with penicillin until you finish your medication and feel better.1

Your doctor may tell you that an occasional drink is fine. But that likely depends on your age, fitness levels, current medical illnesses, and overall health.

The warning label on your penicillin box should also include information about alcohol use. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure about the details of your penicillin. 


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What is Penicillin?

Penicillin comes from penicillin fungi and is primarily used to treat bacterial infections. It is a group of antibiotics that include: 

  • Penicillin V (for oral intake)
  • Penicillin G (used intravenously)
  • Benzathine penicillin
  • Procaine penicillin
  • Amoxicillin

What Happens If You Consume Alcohol While on Penicillin?

Antibiotics and alcohol can cause similar side effects, including:

  • An upset stomach 
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness

Alcohol and medication interactions can increase these side effects, alongside any side effects specific to the substance.

Some side effects of penicillin include:7  

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rashes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hives
  • Muscle spasms
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Tachycardia (a fast heart rate)
  • Flushing
  • Tachypnea (rapid and shallow breathing)
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)

Some side effects of alcohol include:

  • An upset stomach
  • Digestive problems, including stomach pain, diarrhea, and ulcers
  • Tiredness

How Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Penicillin's Effectiveness?

Usually, drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics won’t stop your medication from working. However, it can interfere with your infection’s healing in other ways. 

Getting enough sleep and eating a nutritious diet help you recover from sickness or infection. Drinking alcohol can interfere with these factors. For example, drinking alcohol can affect your sleep patterns and stop you from sleeping well

Consuming alcohol can also prevent your body from absorbing essential nutrients. It can increase your blood sugar levels and reduce your energy levels. 

These factors can affect your body’s ability to heal from an infection. Acute alcohol consumption, binge drinking, and chronic alcohol use can all be harmful, whether you take medication or not. 

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How Long After Taking Penicillin Can I Consume Alcohol?

You should avoid drinking alcohol for at least 72 hours after finishing your course of antibiotics. If unsure, ask your doctor or pharmacist how long you should wait before drinking alcohol again.

Listening to a healthcare professional’s advice can help you avoid the effects of alcohol and medication interactions.

How Long Does Penicillin Stay in Your System?

Penicillin has an elimination half-life of around 1.4 hours or less.2 It takes approximately 5.5 times the elimination half-life for a medicine to be cleared from your body. 

Using this equation, 5.5 multiplied by 1.4 hours, penicillin will flush from your system after your last dose in about 7.7 hours.

However, other factors to consider include:2 

  • The amount and frequency of penicillin you’ve taken 
  • Your metabolism (A slower metabolism will increase the time a drug stays in your system.)
  • Your age and health (Older age and poor health will usually increase the time the drug stays in your system.) 
  • Body mass (Typically, the bigger you are, the longer a drug will remain in your system.)

Are There Any Specific Drinks to Avoid While on Penicillin?

When taking penicillin or any other antibiotics, it’s best to avoid mixing any alcohol with it. This recommendation applies to all types of alcoholic drinks, including beer, wine, spirits, cocktails, and any other alcoholic beverages.

Too much alcohol can impair the liver's ability to metabolize the alcohol and the medication, potentially reducing the effectiveness of penicillin in fighting off bacterial infections.

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What Else Should I Avoid When Taking Penicillin?

Aside from drinking alcohol, refrain from eating grapefruit or drinking its juice. It can prevent the body from breaking down medications properly and affect some antibiotics’ effectiveness.3

Foods supplemented with calcium may also affect antibiotic absorption. For example, avoid drinking calcium-fortified orange juice.4 

Common Questions About Taking Penicillin

Why Do You Have to Take Penicillin on an Empty Stomach?

Some medications should be taken "before food" or "on an empty stomach." Food and some drinks can affect how these drugs work. 

Taking some medications at the same time as eating may prevent your stomach and intestines from absorbing the medication, making it less effective.5

As a general rule, medications taken on an empty stomach should be taken about an hour before eating or 2 hours after.5 

Forgetting these instructions on rare occasions is unlikely to do any harm. However, regularly taking these medicines with food may mean they won’t work as effectively.

What Does Penicillin Treat?

Penicillin is used to treat bacterial infections, such as:6

- Pneumonia and other respiratory tract infections
- Scarlet fever
- Ear, throat, gum, mouth, and skin infections

It’s also used to prevent rheumatic fever. This serious condition may develop after a strep throat or scarlet fever infection and cause swelling of the heart valves.6

How Does Penicillin Work? Can It Treat My Cold?

Penicillin works by killing bacteria. Antibiotics, like penicillin V potassium, won’t work for colds, flu, or other viral infections. 

Remember, taking antibiotics when they aren’t needed increases your risk of getting an infection later on that resists antibiotic treatment.

Is Penicillin Safe?

Penicillin is generally safe to take. However, it can sometimes result in a severe allergic reaction. 

In severe cases, allergic reactions to penicillin can lead to anaphylaxis. This reaction can be life-threatening as it can stop your breathing or heartbeat.8 

If you’re allergic to cephalosporin antibiotics, you’ll likely be allergic to penicillin. Cephalosporins are beta-lactam antimicrobials used to manage a vast range of infections from gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.

Precautionary Measures for Safe Penicillin Use

Before taking any antibiotics, let your doctor know if you have or are partaking in any of the following:

  • Low-sodium diet: If you’re on a low-sodium diet, you must be aware that some penicillin medicines contain high amounts of sodium. Make sure your doctor knows about your diet.
  • Diabetes: Penicillin can cause a false positive result when taking a diabetes urine sugar test.9 If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor about changing your diet or the dosage of your diabetes medicine.
  • Phenylketonuria (PKU): If you have PKU, consult a medical professional before taking any augmentin formulations, as they contain phenylalanine.


  • It’s generally best to avoid alcohol while taking penicillin because it can interfere with your body's ability to heal and recover from an infection. 
  • Follow the instructions on your medication label. Take penicillin on an empty stomach if directed.
  • Avoid certain foods and drinks that can interfere with the effectiveness of antibiotics, like grapefruit and calcium-fortified products.
  • Mixing alcohol with penicillin can cause similar side effects, such as an upset stomach, dizziness, and drowsiness. It may also worsen the side effects of both substances.
  • Alcohol consumption can interfere with sleep patterns, nutrient absorption, and energy levels, affecting healing.
  • Wait at least 72 hours after finishing your course of penicillin before consuming alcohol. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist for specific guidance. 
  • Consulting with healthcare professionals and using medication responsibly is crucial to ensure proper treatment and avoid potential complications.

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Updated on August 3, 2023
9 sources cited
Updated on August 3, 2023
  1. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. “What are the effects of drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics?” Mayo Clinic, 2022.
  2. How long does it take for penicillin to leave your system?” Drugs.com, 2022.
  3. Petric et al. “Food-Drug Interactions with Fruit Juices.” Foods, 2020.
  4. Walden et al. “Effects of Magnesium, Calcium, and Aluminum Chelation on Fluoroquinolone Absorption Rate and Bioavailability: A Computational Study.” Pharmaceutics, 2021.
  5. Why must some medicines be taken on an empty stomach?”]UK National Health Service, 2021.
  6. National Library of Medicine. “Penicillin V Potassium” MedlinePlus, 2018.
  7. Yip, D.W., and Gerriets, V. “Penicillin.” Stat Pearls [Internet], 2022.
  8. Anaphylaxis, Mayo Clinic, 2021
  9. Rotblatt, M.D., and Koda-Kimble, M.A. “Review of drug interference with urine glucose tests.” Diabetes care vol. 10,1, 1987.

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