Enjoy an occasional social drink? If so, the side effects of two commonly prescribed ulcer medications might leave you with some intoxicating side effects.
Recent studies suggest that the ulcer medications cimetidine (Tagamet) and ranitidine (Zantac) can greatly boost blood-alcohol concentrations, even after just one drink.
Cimetidine and ranitidine belong to a class of drugs that inhibits the action of a stomach acid known as gastric alcohol dehydrogenase. Decreasing the activity of this acid helps in the treatment of ulcers.
However, it also increases the amount of alcohol that reaches the bloodstream.
To test the effects of these two drugs on alcohol levels in the blood, scientists gave 20 healthy men (ages 24 to 46) breakfast with orange juice spiked with enough alcohol to equal one-and-a-half glasses of wine.
The scientists measured the blood-alcohol concentrations of the men to establish the baseline level without any drug influence.
Then for the next week, eight men took 300 milligrams of ranitidine per day, six men took 1,000 milligrams of cimetidine per day, and six men took a third, different medication each day. At the end of the week, each of the men received another glass of orange juiced spiked with the same amount of alcohol as they had received in the baseline trial.
Compared to the baseline, the men taking the drug ranitidine experienced a 34 percent increase in blood-alcohol concentration. The men receiving cimetidine experienced an amazing 92 percent increase in blood-alcohol concentration. The third drug had no effect on blood-alcohol concentration.
These amounts of alcohol are well within range of what most people consider moderate social drinking.
The test results indicate that taking the ulcer medications ranitidine and cimetidine lead to significant increases in blood-alcohol levels after drinking a small to moderate amount of alcohol.
Increased blood-alcohol levels cause significant impairment in mental attention and coordination.
So people who are taking either of the two ulcer medication s could experience unexpected impairment after drinking only a small amount of alcohol.
In some states, this increased alcohol level might exceed the legal limit set for driving.
Researchers suggest taking extra care when driving or operating machinery for those people who are taking ranitidine or cimetidine along with alcoholic beverages.