Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is an antihistamine medication that is widely used for the treatment of allergies and allergy symptoms. It is commonly known as diphenhydramine. Diphenhydramine is available in a variety of generic forms and store brand names. The widespread manufacture and distribution of Benadryl has caused it to be relatively inexpensive. It is also available without needing a prescription. In addition to being used to treat allergies Benadryl is also widely used as a sleep aid. It has also been found to be effective at treating extrapyramidal symptoms of those with Parkinson's disease as well as easing nausea. Benadryl is relatively safe when consumed on its own and within the dosage guidelines, but it can become more dangerous when combined with other substances or taken in excessive amounts. One such combination is alcohol.
Benadryl and alcohol side effects
Combining alcohol with medications will often increase the side effects and potency of the medication. This is especially true of combining diphenhydramine and alcohol. Alcohol and Benadryl are both central nervous system (CNS) depressants so combining them is bound to result in a greater degree of CNS depression. The main way this is manifested when combining Benadryl with alcohol is an increase in sedation. Depending on the individual the amount of the increase felt upon the sedation can vary greatly. For some individuals this sedation can be so great that it leads to a loss of consciousness. This can be particularly dangerous or embarrassing in public situations. Combining alcohol and diphenhydramine can also lead to impaired coordination.
If any amount of alcohol and diphenhydramine is consumed together driving should be avoided as well as operating any sort of machinery. Impaired vision and cognition is also likely to occur from combining alcohol and Benadryl. Another danger of this combination is an increased risk of dehydration developing. This is mainly due to the fact that both alcohol and Benadryl on their own are known to be dehydrating. This can lead to a worse next day hangover. In severe cases where the amounts of Benadryl and alcohol consumed are excessive there is risk of cardiovascular depression developing from the amount of sedation produced from this combo.
Benadryl and alcohol treatment
If the side effects are severe in the individual who combined Benadryl and alcohol they should be brought to the nearest medical center for treatment. The treatment will consist of a similar method to treating alcohol poisoning or a Benadryl overdose. The patient may be given activated charcoal to remove any unprocessed substances from their stomach. They will also be given intravenous solutions to replenish any fluids lost as well as keep them hydrated. Patients may also be given physostigmine which helps to reverse many of the side effects caused by Benadryl. If not combined in large amounts the combination of Benadryl and alcohol will probably not require medical attention. It will just result in sedation and fatigue the next day.
Alternatives to Benadryl
For those who are taking Benadryl to relieve congestion there are some safer alternatives they can take if they plan on drinking. One such alternative is pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine is commonly available without needing a prescription and is effective at reducing congestion. It is not as dangerous to combine with alcohol as Benadryl is. However, only a moderate amount of alcohol should be consumed while on any medication as the chances of adverse reactions are still increased.