Taking Benadryl With Alcohol

In our latest question and answer, our pharmacist discusses whether or not you can drink alcohol and take Benadryl (diphenhydramine) at the same time.

Dec 01, 2017

Mariani asked

I have some real trouble sleeping and taking 2 benadyl really helps. I usually have 1-2 glasses of red wine at night. It that alright? I have done it before and feel fine but I thought I would check w/ a druggist


While it is not absolutely contraindicated to take alcohol with Benadryl (diphenhydramine), it is recommended that you avoid this combination in order to prevent the development of severe side effects.

The active ingredient in Benadryl is diphenhydramine. Diphenhydramine is an anti-histamine that is used over-the-counter for allergy relief, itching, and insomnia. Common side effects of diphenhydramine include drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, and difficulty urinating.

Diphenhydramine causes central nervous system depression (or CNS depression) which essentially means it slows down the activity in the brain. This is one of the reasons why diphenhydramine helps with sleep. CNS depression can also lead to more serious side effects such as slurred speech, staggering, impaired thinking, and even coma. Therefore it is recommended to avoid combinations of products that could have additive CNS depressant effects.

Alcohol is also a CNS depressant and can increase the risk that you develop the side effects mentioned above when co-administered with other CNS depressants such as diphenhydramine.  You may not only experience pronounced sedation when combining the two, but you may also be more at risk for severe effects such as respiratory depression. You ideally want to separate the two by at least 6-12 hours.

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