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Rosemary Leonard GP
"There are very few medicines that interact badly with alcohol"
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Wednesday, 20 December, 2000, 11:52 GMT
Festive warning for patients
Drink tempts people to stop their medication
The alcoholic temptations of the holiday season could lead people on prescription drugs to stop taking them.

A survey shows that almost one in five people will halt their medication so they can have a drink.

But pharmacists and doctors are warning people to carry on with their treatment over Christmas and the millennium or risk damaging their health.

The survey, carried out by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, suggests that the number of people planing to give up their medicines during the festive season is four times higher than normal.

People who stop taking a prescribed medicine because they want to drink alcohol run the risk of putting their health at serious risk

Christine Glover
The study also suggests that a third of people do not check whether they can safely drink alcohol with their drugs.

And 17% of people questioned said they regularly consumed alcohol when on a prescribed medicine.

Christine Glover, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, said: "People who stop taking a prescribed medicine - even temporarily - because they want to drink alcohol, run the risk of putting their health at serious risk.

Only option

"If you are taking a prescribed medicine you need to check whether alcohol will interact with it. If it does, the only option is not to drink."

Mrs Glover stressed that many medicines can be taken perfectly safely with moderate amounts of alcohol. "Most of us look forward to having a few drinks over the festive season," she said. "In moderation this may not affect your treatment, but the important thing is to find out.

"In the run-up to the festive season we are urging people to ask their pharmacist if they've any questions on how to best take their medicine."

Dr Simon Fradd, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs Committee, said there were only two prescription medicines which could prove fatal if drunk with alcohol - specialist antibiotic metronidazole and disulfiram, a drug for alcohol abusers.

Many other drugs, including anti-depressants, can interact with alcohol, giving an increased effect.

Dr Fradd said: "The base rule is people should take their drugs. But I would say to them, as long as you recognise that the alcohol will have a vastly greater effect, you just have to be careful. We have to live in the real world."

He advised people to consult their GPs and added that, while people should never drive after drinking, this was especially important when on prescription drugs.

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