Skip to content

The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Benadryl

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is a brand name of an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that’s classified as an antihistamine. It’s used to help relieve symptoms of seasonal allergies such as hay fever, other allergies, and the common cold, as well as itchy skin due to insect bites, hives, and other causes.

When diphenhydramine and alcohol are mixed, the combination can be dangerous. While Benadryl doesn’t affect the liver, it is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. People may not realize that alcohol is also a depressant. When alcohol and diphenhydramine are mixed together, the impact on the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) can lead to severe and heightened side effects. In some cases, this combination can be life-threatening.

When consumed, Benadryl acts as a depressant for the nervous system. Drugs classified as depressants slow down the body’s nerve and brain function. Usually, this slow-down effect is not dangerous but can become threatening if another depressant is taken simultaneously. Benadryl and alcohol are both CNS depressants. An individual may have forgotten they took Benadryl or did not know about the potential dangers. Either way, the two combined in the body can take a severe toll.

First-generation antihistamines will cause drowsiness in just about everybody, and alcohol does that too, so if someone is taking antihistamines and alcohol, the chance of having a double dose of that drowsiness is very high. Depression of the central nervous system (CNS) can cause a slow breathing rate, decreased heart rate, and loss of consciousness and can lead to a coma in rare cases.

alcohol and benadryl
The risk of falling unconscious is one of the main reasons why mixing Benadryl and alcohol often leads to personal injury. Unfortunately, that isn’t the only health risk that someone can experience.

Is Benadryl Addictive?

Benadryl functions by stopping the body from producing histamine in response to drug or peanut allergies. Benadryl has a sedative effect when taken, which is why most people who experience insomnia utilize it as a sleep aid. The substance has become one of the most overused because of its accessibility in pharmacies and grocery stores.

Benadryl’s main component, diphenhydramine, is highly addictive. Although the medication treats diseases like sleeplessness, nausea, the common cold, and Parkinson’s sufferers’ tremors, it can become addictive if taken daily in liquid, tablet, or capsule form.

Can You Get Addicted to Benadryl?

Since Benadryl is used to treat various medical conditions, developing Benadryl addiction might not be intentional. Those who use the medicine to treat their insomnia risk developing Benadryl addiction. Patients with Parkinson’s disease who receive a prescription for Benadryl to treat their tremors and muscle spasms also risk becoming addicted to the medication. Patients with schizophrenia are more likely to get addicted because Benadryl helps them cope with the negative effects of antipsychotic medication use.

Those dealing with anxiety turn to Benadryl because of its ability to put them in a state of complete and utter relaxation. However, this reason for use often leads to Benedryl addiction. Benadryl is cheap and can be procured, even without a doctor’s prescription, making it prone to abuse.

Diphenhydramine HCl and Alcohol

Diphenhydramine is a sedative drug used to treat allergic conditions like hives, hay fever, and asthma. It’s also used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and Tourette’s syndrome. Diphenhydramine HCL with alcohol is a deadly combination.

In some cases, diphenhydramine HCL alcohol may be harmful when taken in combination. This can lead to drowsiness, confusion, or dizziness. If you’re taking these drugs together and experience any of these effects, stop taking them immediately and seek medical attention.

Certain antidepressants can interact with  Diphenhydramine mixed with alcohol. These include tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can also interact with diphenhydramine.

Ryan Zofay forming a circle and hugging friends.

Get Your Life Back

Find Hope & Recovery. Get Safe Comfortable Detox, Addiction Rehab & Dual Diagnosis High-Quality Care.

Hotline (877) 378-4154

Can You Drink Alcohol with Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)?

Diphenhydramine alcohol when mixed together is a strong drug. It must not be consumed with alcohol to be used safely. Alcohol and medication can interact dangerously, impairing motor control and attention and causing excessive sleepiness. For some people, especially those with asthma or nasal issues, drinking alcohol can worsen their allergy symptoms. Histamines can develop during the production of alcoholic beverages, according to studies. Additionally, some people may experience severe allergy symptoms if they take this since the drink is working against the medication’s effects. Can you take diphenhydramine with alcohol? the answer is No.

Risks and Side Effects of Mixing Benadryl and Alcohol

Drowsiness

  • Benadryl can cause side effects, including drowsiness and sedation, which impair reaction speed and coordination. Combining Benadryl with alcohol can intensify these side effects and will impair an individual’s daily functioning. This can be fatal if it involves certain activities, such as driving or operating heavy machinery.

Loss of Consciousness

  • Some individuals are more prone than others to losing consciousness when sedated. In these individuals, mixing Benadryl and alcohol is more likely to cause a loss of consciousness. This can be dangerous due to the likelihood of falls and other accidents.

Dehydration

  • Benadryl and alcohol are both known to dehydrate the body. Combining them can increase the risk of dehydration. This can cause discomfort at the time and may worsen a hangover.

Complications in Older Adults

  • Aging slows the body’s ability to break down alcohol so that it may stay in the system of an older adult for longer than someone younger. This slowdown increases the time a person will be at risk of harmful Benadryl alcohol interaction.

Learning and Memory Impairment

  • Benadryl blocks the action of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is necessary for memory and learning, so blocking its action may temporarily impair these processes.
  • Alcohol is also known to inhibit memory and learning temporarily. So, mixing Benadryl and alcohol may again have a more noticeable effect on learning and memory.

Interactions with Other Types of Medication

  • Benadryl may interact with other types of medication, which can increase the side effects. Taking these other types of medications with alcohol could also increase the risk of side effects.

Alcohol and diphenhydramine Interaction are strong because they are both CNS depressants. When taken together, their effects on the body may be additive or synergistic.

Alcohol diphenhydramine and Numerous classes of prescription medications can interact with alcohol, including antibiotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, histamine H2 receptor antagonists, muscle relaxants, nonnarcotic pain medications and anti-inflammatory agents, opioids, and warfarin.

Examples of medications that may interact with Benadryl include:

Get Help. Get Better. Get Your Life Back.

Searching for an Accredited Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centers in Near You?

Even if you have failed previously and relapsed, or are in the middle of a difficult crisis, we stand ready to support you. Our trusted behavioral health specialists will not give up on you. When you feel ready or just want someone to speak to about therapy alternatives to change your life call us. Even if we cannot assist you, we will lead you to wherever you can get support. There is no obligation. Call our hotline today.

FREE Addiction Hotline – Call 24/7

Other Sources of Alcohol

  • Some types of medication, including laxatives and cough syrup, also contain alcohol. They can include up to 10 percent alcohol, which may interact with Benadryl.
  • Consequently, taking Benadryl with these medications when consuming very small amounts of alcohol may still increase the risk of adverse side effects.

Sex

  • In general, females are more susceptible to alcohol-related harm. This is because their bodies typically contain less water for alcohol to mix, meaning that the same amount of alcohol would be more concentrated in a female than in a male.
  • Mixing Benadryl with alcohol may be particularly hazardous for females, as consuming smaller amounts of alcohol could trigger adverse Benadryl and alcohol interaction effects.

Misuse

  • As Benadryl and alcohol both cause sedation and drowsiness, it may seem tempting to exploit this combination as a sleeping aid. However, this can also heighten other adverse side effects that will interfere with sleep, such as dizziness and nausea.

Dementia

  • Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with a higher risk of dementia. It is possible that consuming large amounts of Benadryl and alcohol over long periods could be linked to an increased risk of dementia.
  • However, longitudinal research would be required on people who consume high levels of Benadryl and alcohol to know whether this affects the risk of dementia.

Benadryl and Alcohol Overdose

Can I take Benadryl with alcohol? An excessive combination of Benadryl and alcohol could lead to an overdose. However, you would likely have to ingest significant doses of both drugs. Death is one of the risks if you overdose on alcohol and Benadryl and lose consciousness.

While Benadryl is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication and is commonly used, it can cause dangerous side effects. That’s why it should never combine with alcohol.

Taking more than the directed dose of Benadryl makes an overdose more likely. Side effects will be uncomfortable rather than euphoric. Anecdotal evidence about Benadryl highs suggests that the results are more unsettling than enjoyable.

Do not underestimate how dangerous this medication is; just because it is available without a prescription doesn’t mean it can’t kill you if you take enough of it. There is a fine line between being a bit sleepy and having significant problems like heart problems and seizures, which can be life-threatening. According to the National Institute for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) [1], in 2016, a study demonstrated that diphenhydramine or Benadryl overdoses made up 3.2% of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. In the same study, diphenhydramine ranked among the top 15 drugs most frequently involved in drug overdose deaths in the U.S

alcohol and benadryl
Drinking alcohol and taking Benadryl makes it harder for people of all ages to control body movement well. But it may be even riskier for seniors.

Signs of Benadryl Overdose

Signs and side effects of overdose on Benadryl may include:

  • Enlarged pupils
  • Agitation
  • Dry eyes 
  • Blurry vision
  • Delirium
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Inability to urinate
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Intense, sudden depression
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Dry, red skin
  • Passing out or falling asleep
  • Nervousness or paranoia
  • Physical tremors
  • Unsteady gait
  • Loss of balance or inability to walk
  • Nausea or vomiting

Taking Benadryl with other potent drugs can also increase the risk of overdose. These drugs include:

Benadryl and Alcohol Death

Death is one of the risks if you take an excessive amount of alcohol plus diphenhydramine and become unconscious. Despite being widely utilized and conveniently accessible over the counter, Benadryl can have harmful adverse effects. You should never combine it with alcohol because of this. Usually, overdose symptoms appear within the first two hours of taking it. Antihistamine and alcohol death is caused by toxic effects that can include heart attack, kidney failure, pancreatitis, and coma. Diphenhydramine and alcohol death is possible when these are not taken with caution.

First-class Facilities & Amenities

World-class High-Quality Addiction & Mental Health Rehabilitation Treatment

Rehab Centers Tour

Renowned Addiction Centers. Serene Private Facilities. Inpatient rehab programs vary.

Addiction Helpline (877) 378-4154

Proven recovery success experience, backed by a Team w/ History of:

  • 15+ Years Experience
  • 100s of 5-Star Reviews
  • 10K+ Recovery Successes
  • Low Patient to Therapist Ratio
  • Onsite Medical Detox Center
  • Comprehensive Dual-Diagnosis Treatment
  • Complimentary Family & Alumni Programs
  • Coaching, Recovery & Personal Development Events

What Is an Alcohol Overdose?

An alcohol overdose happens when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life-support functions—such as heart rate, breathing, and temperature control—start to shut down. What tips the balance from drinking that produces impairment to drinking that puts one’s life in danger varies among individuals. Sensitivity to alcohol (tolerance), age, drinking speed, gender, medications you are taking, and amount of food eaten can all be factors.

Alcohol use and taking opioids or sedative-hypnotics, such as sleep and anti-anxiety medications, can increase your risk of an overdose. These medications include sleep aids such as zolpidem, eszopiclone, and benzodiazepines such as diazepam and alprazolam [2]. 

Even drinking alcohol while taking over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl can be dangerous. Using alcohol with opioid pain relievers such as morphine and oxycodone or illicit opioids such as heroin is also very dangerous. Like alcohol, these drugs suppress areas in the brain that control vital functions such as breathing. Ingesting alcohol and other drugs together intensifies their individual effects and could produce an overdose with even moderate amounts of alcohol.

Critical Signs and Symptoms of an Alcohol Overdose

  • Mental confusion, stupor
  • Difficulty remaining conscious or inability to wake up
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • Slow heart rate
  • Clammy skin
  • Dulled responses, such as no gag reflex (which prevents choking)
  • Extremely low body temperature, bluish skin color, or paleness

How long after alcohol can I take diphenhydramine?

  1. Wait at least 2 hours after drinking before you take the medicine.
  2. Do not drink any fluids for at least 8 hours after you take the medicine, even water.
  3. Take the diphenhydramine 30 minutes before you go to sleep. Do not take more than 1 capsule per dose, and never take more than 6 doses per day.

Benadryl and Alcohol Abuse, Withdrawal, and Treatment

Polydrug Abuse: Benadryl and Alcohol 

Benadryl is available without a prescription. It is common for people to believe that it is safe. However, this over-the-counter medication has many of the same addictive qualities as other prescription drugs and some street drugs [3]. When combined with alcohol, abuse of Benadryl can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. 

Benadryl can be abused if people use it incorrectly. People may misuse and abuse Benadryl for delirium since it is so readily available. The symptoms can be severe and are even worse if the drug is combined with other substances like alcohol. A person can develop tolerance and Benadryl addiction. Many people who abuse medications containing these ingredients experience side effects like hallucinations and sleepiness.

Polydrug abuse is the improper use of multiple drugs or substances, such as diphenhydramine with alcohol, simultaneously, which is dangerous. The combined effects of Benadryl and alcohol enhance the desired effect of the individual drugs and intensify each substance’s potentially harmful side effects. 

It is important to remember that mixing drugs can bring about unpredictable results. Also, the short-term and long-term consequences of polydrug abuse are challenging for medical professionals to predict as they vary based on the combination and amount of substances used.

Withdrawal from Benadryl and Alcohol 

Withdrawal from multiple drugs or substances is significantly more complicated than withdrawal from one substance. Because of this, it is essential and potentially lifesaving to undergo detox in an inpatient, medically assisted setting. 

How Diphenhydramine for Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment

Diphenhydramine can be used to help people with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It must be taken every four hours for the first day, then every six hours after that. This medication should be taken with food or milk if possible.

Diphenhydramine or Benadryl Withdrawal

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) addiction withdrawal is a real threat. People who abruptly stop taking this drug after becoming addicted may suffer severe antihistamine withdrawal symptoms. 

There are presently no known medications that aid ease withdrawal from Benadryl symptoms. As with most drugs used for prolonged periods, tapering down is always the safest and least unpleasant bet. 

Signs and Symptoms of diphenhydramine (Benadryl) withdrawal include:

  • Nausea and diarrhea
  • Insomnia and restlessness
  • Stomach cramps
  • Hot and cold sweats
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Cold-like symptoms

Alcohol Withdrawal

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) [4], alcohol withdrawal is a symptom that may happen when someone who has been drinking too much alcohol regularly suddenly stops drinking alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually happen within 8 hours after the last drink but can occur days later. Symptoms typically peak in 24 to 72 hours but may go on for weeks. 

Common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Jumpiness or shakiness
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Not thinking clearly

A severe form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens (DT) can cause:

  • Agitation
  • Fever
  • Seeing or feeling things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • Seizures
  • Severe confusion
alcohol and benadryl
Too much Benadryl can cause a wide variety of side effects, ranging from sleepiness and dry mouth to coma and possibly death.

World-class, Accredited, 5-Star Reviewed, Effective Addiction & Mental Health Programs. Complete Behavioral Health Inpatient Rehab, Detox plus Co-occuring Disorders Therapy.

CALL (877) 378-4154

End the Addiction Pain. End the Emotional Rollercoaster. Get Your Life Back. Start Drug, Alcohol & Dual Diagnosis Mental Health Treatment Now. Get Free No-obligation Guidance by Substance Abuse Specialists Who Understand Addiction & Mental Health Recovery & Know How to Help.

Benadryl and Alcohol Abuse Treatment

Medically-Assisted Detox

During a medically assisted detox program, highly trained medical professionals will provide the individual with continual, 24/7 supervision. They will be available to monitor your vital signs (including heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and temperature) and to intervene in the case of a medical emergency.

Withdrawing from alcohol on its own can be difficult. However, withdrawing from alcohol simultaneously with another substance, such as Benadryl, adds to the potential risk. For this reason, continual monitoring is essential to ensuring your safety. 

The encouragement provided in a medically assisted detox program decreases the possibility of relapse after treatment and improves the chances of safely and successfully transitioning into a therapy program.

Inpatient or Residential Treatment

Although completing detox removes the immediate dangers of polysubstance abuse, it is not an effective standalone treatment for an addiction to alcohol and Benadryl. Detox must be followed by evidence-based, comprehensive addiction treatment that includes therapy to help you learn more about the roots of your addiction and better understand the triggers that further addictive behaviors. 

Therapy for substance use disorders often includes different types of psychotherapy. The most common type of therapy used in addiction treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on encouraging the person to analyze and examine their behaviors and thoughts to better understand the causes of their addiction. 

As treatment advances, they are encouraged to modify their thoughts and behaviors to promote healthier and safer responses to events, situations, and people that would once have resulted in turning to substances as a coping mechanism.

alcohol and benadryl
You aren’t alone. You deserve to get help.

Find the Right Treatment Plan at We Level Up, NJ

Polydrug abuse can lead to severe consequences. If you’ve tried to quit in the past but ended up using Benadryl and alcohol again, that’s a clear sign you need professional help. Get them the safest help they need and deserve. Our team at We Level Up NJ specializes in creating an ideal environment for a future free of substances.

Alcohol and Benadryl FAQs

Can you take Benadryl with alcohol?

Alcohol and Benadryl both have CNS depressive effects. These medicines slow down the CNS. Combining them can cause your CNS to slow down, which is harmful. This might result from drowsiness, sleepiness, and difficulty performing mentally and physically demanding tasks.

How long after taking Benadryl can you drink alcohol?

It’s best to wait to drink alcohol until after an allergy medicine leaves your system. Although everybody processes medications differently, diphenhydramine is likely eliminated from your body about two days after your last dose. Drinking on Benadryl can be risky.

How much alcohol can you drink with Benadryl?

Using it safely means not drinking alcohol while you take it. Combining the drug with alcohol can cause dangerous effects.

How many Benadryl can you take without overdosing?

Oral Benadryl products shouldn’t be taken more than 6 times each day. For adults and children over 12 years of age, the maximum is 300 mg each day. For children ages 6 to 12 years, the maximum is 150 mg each day.

How much Benadryl does it take to overdose?

With ingestions greater than 1 gram, diphenhydramine may result in delirium, psychosis, seizures, coma, and death. 

Can you overdose on Benadryl and alcohol?

While it is possible to overdose on alcohol and Benadryl, this would likely require ingesting large doses of both substances. 

How much Benadryl will kill you?

A typical diphenhydramine dose is between 100 and 1,000 nanograms. According to authorities, Isenberg had 7,100 nanograms in his system when a user takes an abnormally large amount of diphenhydramine, the risk of neurotoxicity, permanent damage, and death increases. Diphenhydramine alcohol combination can be fatal.

Is Benadryl psychoactive?

Diphenhydramine can be considered psychotropic because it does influence the central nervous system.” Based on those qualifications, Benadryl is technically a psychotropic drug.

Examples of psychotropic substances include alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, marijuana, and certain pain medicines. Many illegal drugs, such as heroin, LSD, cocaine, and amphetamines, are also psychotropic substances. Also called a psychoactive substance.

How long does antihistamine withdrawal last?

The benedryl withdrawal signs usually begin between 48 and 96 hours after the last dose. They usually peak between days 3 and 5 and can last between 1 and 7 days.

Do people abuse Benadryl?

Over-the-counter medications such as Benadryl are very accessible, including for minors, and some people intentionally abuse the drug. There are some mild sedative effects, and in high doses, it can produce euphoric effects or feelings similar to intoxication. However, an amount higher than 25 mg can be severely dangerous and likely cause the user harm rather than euphoria.

Is it possible to overdose on Benadryl?

Yes. At very high doses, this medication can also start to affect the heart. Severe Benadryl overdoses are known to cause irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias).

Can too much Benadryl kill you?

Too much Benadryl can cause a wide variety of side effects, ranging from sleepiness and dry mouth to coma and possibly death. Never mix Benadryl and alcohol. It can be risky.

Can you be addicted to Benadryl?

Diphenhydramine, a major ingredient used to make Benadryl, is highly addictive. Addiction to Benadryl is possible. People primarily develop a psychological dependence on the drug

Is alcohol an antihistamine?

Alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine contain high levels of a chemical called histamine, This is what the body makes when it responds to allergies. In fact, we take anti-histamine medicines to stop the symptoms of allergies like hay fever.

Can Benadryl kill you?

Taking too much Benadryl can kill you. A challenge posted on TikTok known as the “Benadryl challenge” encourages viewers to take large doses of the antihistamine to induce hallucinations.

How much Benadryl can kill you?

The lethal dose of diphenhydramine depends on a few factors, such as the condition it’s being used to treat and the person’s age.

The lethal dose of diphenhydramine has been estimated to be 20 to 40 mg/kg for adults.

Can benadryl cause brain damage?

Benadryl overdose may lead to possible complications and may cause damage to your nervous system.

Can you drink and take Benadryl?

It’s best to refrain from drinking alcohol while taking Benadryl. Since you can get Benadryl without a prescription at pharmacies and grocery stores, you may assume it’s safe to use. However, Benadryl is a powerful medication with dangers.

How long after Benadryl can I drink alcohol?

This means that Benadryl is strongest within 2 hours of taking it, and it can take up to 9 hours for half of the drug to leave your system. Medical experts recommend waiting at least two days between taking large amounts of Benadryl and drinking alcohol to be safe.

Is antihistamine addictive?

Antihistamines are often addictive because they work by blocking histamine receptors. Symptoms of Antihistamine Overdose When taken regularly, antihistamines reduce the symptoms of these conditions and make it possible for people to live normal, productive lives.

Does Benadryl help with alcohol withdrawal?

Unfortunately, Benadryl does not provide the real answer. It is addictive because the effect wears off after a while, and you need more of the substance. There are also Benadryl withdrawal symptoms, which seem to affect other organs in the body and damage them.

Start a New Life

Begin with a free call to an addiction & behavioral health treatment advisor. Learn more about our dual-diagnosis programs. The We Level Up treatment center network delivers recovery programs that vary by each treatment facility. Call to learn more.

  • Personalized Care
  • Caring Accountable Staff
  • World-class Amenities
  • Licensed & Accredited
  • Renowned w/ 100s 5-Star Reviews

We’ll Call You


Sources:

[1] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557578/
[2] NIAAA – https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-dangers-of-alcohol-overdose
[3] SAMHSA – https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt35325/NSDUHFFRPDFWHTMLFiles2020/2020NSDUHFFR1PDFW102121.pdf
[4] NIH – https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000764.htm
[5] We Level UpPrescription Drug Abuse
[6] We Level UpAlcohol Detox
[7] Dangers Of Mixing Benadryl And Alcohol & Effective Addiction Treatment Options (welevelup.com)