Drinking Beer While On Blood Pressure Medication

Our pharmacist answers the latest question regarding an interaction with a blood pressure medication and alcohol.

Sep 26, 2017

Evelynpo asked

I'm taking Olmatec plus for High Blood pressure for almost 2 months with little to no side effects, Can I have 2 beers for a special occasion? from what I have read it may cause a lower reading. I am curious.....To better phrase it has it been known for people to drink while on these meds? Thank-you.


Olmatec (Olmesartan), also known as Benicar in the United states is a blood pressure medication that is classified as an Angiotension II Receptor Blocker (ARB). It lowers blood pressure by blocker a receptor known as angiotension II which is a potent vasoconstrictor (tightens the blood vessels).  Blocking this receptor decreases the amount of vasoconstiction.

Questions regarding taking prescription drugs and alcohol consumption is always a little bit murky. Most pharmacists and health care professionals will always recommend not to take a medication while on alcohol because the effects may not be well known or because it may hold a health care provider liable if something negative were to happen. Having said that, it is usually OK with many drugs to consume alcohol in moderation. The main things you want to avoid are combinations that cause excess drowsiness or could cause problems with the liver.

You bring up a good topic in regards to blood pressure and alcohol consumption. Alcohol has varying effects on blood pressure and it can be somewhat confusing. There are three situations in which the effects of alcohol on blood pressure are well known.

Situation 1

Excess consumption (usually classified as over one to two drinks per day). It has been shown in multiple studies that drinking excessively over a long period of time can raise blood pressure anywhere from 2 to 10 points and could be potentially very dangerous with those with heart conditions. In fact, the current blood pressure treatment guidelines, also known as the JNC VIII guidelines, recommend a decrease in alcohol consumption to lower blood pressure.

Situation 2

 Moderate consumption of certain types of beverages. Wine and other beverages high in bioflavanoids and antioxidants when consumed in moderation has shown to slightly decrease blood pressure.

Situation 3

 Immediate effects of alcohol consumption. This is where your question falls. You are absolutely correct when you state that drinking alcohol WHILE taking a blood pressure medication can LOWER blood pressure. It is well documented that alcohol potentiates (or heightens) the blood pressure lowering effect of medications. This is because acute consumption of alcohol widens the blood vessels and causes a temporary drop in blood pressure, possibly causing dizziness. This widening of blood vessels also causes the classic flushing on the face and nose. Honestly, you will more likely than not, have no problems with one to two drinks while on your medication. While this alcohol consumption will cause a slight dip in blood pressure, it usually is not very clinically significant. Most medical drug references list alcohol and blood pressure medications as a minor interaction. 

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