Naproxen is a commonly prescribed anti-inflammatory drug, used to treat inflammation-related pain conditions that do not respond to other over the counter medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.
In addition to being prescribed at higher doses, naproxen can also be purchased from most pharmacies in the form of Feminax Ultra, a drug that is used for the relief of period pain.
Naproxen is favoured over opioid painkillers as it is non-addictive and has fewer side effects. However, this does not mean that Naproxen is side effect free, nor that it is suitable for everyone.
If you are taking naproxen it is wise to watch your alcohol intake, ideally avoiding alcohol altogether. The main reason being, that as a strong anti-inflammatory drug, naproxen can cause issues with your stomach which are more likely to occur or worsen if you drink alcohol.
Both alcohol and naproxen increase your risk of internal bleeding. Mixing naproxen and alcohol together will also very likely increase any side effects of naproxen you experience, and may even cause life-threatening damage when abused or used together for prolonged periods of time.
Here, Detox Plus looks at the common side effects of naproxen and how drinking alcohol can cause these to become problematic – even life-threatening. We also provide guidance on how much alcohol is safe to consume whilst taking naproxen, and what you should do if you need to take it but are struggling with an alcohol problem.
What is Naproxen?
Naproxen is a strong anti-inflammatory drug and belongs to a group of medicines called NSAIDs. NSAIDs stands for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Naproxen is available in tablet and liquid form and can be safely taken together with paracetamol.
Brand names of Naproxen and medications containing naproxen include:
Naprosyn, Stirlescent, Feminax Ultra, Period Pain Reliever, Boots Period Pain Relief
Naproxen works by reducing inflammation in muscles and joints and is used to treat a number of inflammatory-related pain conditions.
It can be used to treat: strains, back pain, osteoarthritis, toothache, headaches, ankylosing spondylitis, gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
Naproxen is usually prescribed by a doctor. This is due to it generally not being suitable for children. It can however be purchased over the counter at lower doses for the treatment of period pain.
The most common side effects associated with taking naproxen are nausea, tiredness and dizziness.
It can be safely used to treat chronic and long term pain conditions when prescribed in a gastro-resistant form and when taken exactly as prescribed.
Gastro-resistant naproxen helps to prevent damage to the stomach and intestines from long term use. Even then, medically it is advised to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum, ideally avoiding alcohol altogether.
Side-effects of naproxen and why you should avoid alcohol
Like most NSAIDs, naproxen can cause inflammation of the stomach’s lining. This can lead to stomach pain, bleeding, acid reflux and ulcers.
Likewise, excessive alcohol consumption is also known to cause inflammation of the stomach lining – a medical condition known as gastritis.
Those that regularly consume above the Chief Medical Officers safer drinking guidelines of no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread out evenly, will be more susceptible to developing gastritis.
Combining naproxen and alcohol will make you more prone to a number of high-risk conditions associated with the stomach and intestines. Developing gastritis, which often is accompanied by some very uncomfortable symptoms, is just one of the many ailments that can develop.
Gastritis typically includes symptoms of stomach pain, fullness, acid reflux and nausea. However, not everyone experiences symptoms. Just because you do not have any symptoms from drinking alcohol with naproxen, does not mean that combining the two is not causing you harm.
Left untreated, gastritis can lead to some serious health complications including ulceration and internal bleeding.
The risks of Gastritis – An increased health risk resulting from combining naproxen and alcohol
As explained, combining alcohol and naproxen together regularly greatly increases your chances of developing gastritis – inflammation of the stomach lining.
Gastritis can cause some other serious health complications.
The risks associated with gastritis include:
- Ulceration of the stomach lining and intestines
- Bleeding in the stomach and intestines will lead to pain and passing black, tarry like stools. You may also vomit blood
- Vitamin B12 deficiency due to malabsorption. This can lead to nerve damage and the onset of Wernicke’s Encephalopathy.
- Iron deficiency due to malabsorption. Iron deficiency can cause mental health issues, breathlessness and severe lethargy as a result of your organs not getting enough oxygen
- Gastritis can cause irreversible damage to the stomach and intestines
- Growths and tumours in the stomach, which place you at higher risk of stomach cancer.
Gastritis is a condition that can easily be avoided by not combining alcohol with naproxen, and by reporting any stomach-related side effects of naproxen to your doctor.
If you have ever previously suffered from stomach ulcers, it may not be safe for you to take them.
Who should avoid naproxen
Naproxen, whilst generally a very safe drug, is not suitable for everyone. For this reason, you should always consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking the drug.
Naproxen is known to have serious interactions with certain medications. It is therefore important that your doctor and pharmacist are aware of any other medications or drugs you are taking, prescribed or not.
Naproxen is generally not suitable for those with the following health conditions:
- Those that have heart disease or have previously suffered thrombosis or a stroke. NSAIDs can increase the risk of thrombotic events, stroke and cardiovascular problems
- Those with breathing problems or who suffer from asthma. It should be used with caution as it can lead to a greater risk of breathing difficulties
- Those who have ever suffered from gastritis or stomach ulcers. Naproxen increased the chances of suffering a recurrence or worsening of these conditions. This can ultimately lead to perforation of the stomach lining or intestinal walls which can be fatal.
- Those with a current alcohol use disorder. It is important to keep alcohol intake to a minimum, ideally avoiding altogether. If you cannot control your alcohol intake it is best to avoid it altogether.
- Elderly patients, pregnant women and children should be observed whilst taking it as they are at higher risk of suffering gastrointestinal problems.
- Those who are taking other NSAIDs including ibuprofen and aspirin. Many cold and flu remedies also contain NSAIDs, always check with your pharmacist
- Those who suffer from any type of bleeding disorder
- Those with an allergy to aspirin or who regularly take aspirin
- Those that suffer from renal impairment or are taking diuretic medication
If you suffer from any of the above conditions, please consult your doctor.
The short term and long term effects of combining alcohol and naproxen
Mixing alcohol and naproxen together can have both short term immediate effects and long term, sometimes permanent or even fatal effects.
The effects include, but are not limited to:
- Blurred vision
- Stomach pain
- Difficulty urinating
- Ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract
- Cardiovascular problems
- Renal failure
- Heart attack
- Perforation of the stomach lining or intestines
- Permanent damage to the gastrointestinal tract
- Internal bleeding
- Water retention
- Salt depletion
- Vitamin deficiencies, including vitamin B12 deficiency and iron deficiency
- Electrolyte imbalances
The more alcohol you drink and the higher dose of naproxen/longer duration of treatment, the more at risk you are of developing any number of serious health complications.
To reduce the risk of developing the above, alcohol should be avoided whilst taking naproxen.
If you are alcohol dependent or suffer from an alcohol use disorder, please do not take naproxen
Help for an alcohol problem
If you are worried that you may be drinking too much or are unable to control your alcohol intake, professional help is at hand.
Free support for an alcohol problem can be accessed through your doctor or local drug and alcohol services. Alternatively, immediate tailored professional alcohol treatment is available by contacting us at Detox Plus.
We at Detox Plus specialise in professionally treating alcohol use disorders – privately, effectively and confidentially. Call us today for a free assessment of your alcohol treatment needs and immediate expert advice and support.
- Naproxen – https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_naproxen_aleve/drugs-condition.htm
- Naproxen NHS https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/naproxen/
- Naproxen and alcohol / Food interactions https://www.drugs.com/food-interactions/naproxen.html
Alcohol Abuse FAQS
More on Alcohol Abuse