Tamoxifen and Alcohol

by on June 4, 2012

The interaction between Tamoxifen and alcohol is considered moderate, but studies have shown that consuming alcohol while taking this medication can decrease the drug’s effectiveness and increase the likelihood of more serious side effects.

Tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Soltamox) is a drug that is used to block the production of certain hormones in the body that may be partially responsible for promoting the growth of breast cancer. It is often given to men who have breast cancer or to women who either have the disease or who have certain genetic markers indicating that they could develop the disease in the future. As a result, people of either sex are at risk for interactions between Tamoxifen and alcohol and should understand the possible side effects that they could experience as well as how much alcohol is considered safe while being treated with the medication.

Potential Side Effects

Some of the potential side effects that may occur when using Tamoxifen and drinking alcohol together include dizziness, drowsiness and even increased risks for heart attacks and strokes.

One of the most prominent side effects of Tamoxifen is dizziness, and alcohol can certainly increase this—even when consumed in very small amounts. Also, alcohol has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer, which is exactly what Tamoxifen was developed to fight. Other side effects include symptoms that resemble menopause—even in men and younger women—that can be aggravated by the addition of alcohol.

How Much Alcohol is Safe?

While the safest course of action would be to avoid drinking any alcohol while taking Tamoxifen, those who enjoy one drink occasionally are not likely to experience any troubling side effects. The main thing to be concerned with is the side effects associated with drinking, not the side effects associated with the medication itself.

People who consume only one alcoholic beverage may experience light-headedness, dizziness that ranges in severity, hot flashes and even fatigue. Long-term consumption of alcohol may lead to liver disease and heart problems, but it is not known if taking Tamoxifen with alcohol will aggravate these conditions.

Moderate Drinking

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that interacts with nearly every type of medication imaginable in some way. Tamoxifen is designed to inhibit the production of certain hormones within the body, and when moderate amounts of alcohol are introduced into the bloodstream, the effectiveness of the drug is compromised. Aside from this, the side effects that are associated with the medication may worsen and cause significant health problems. The FDA considers drinking two or more alcoholic beverages per day—or more than 14 per week—moderate consumption, so anyone who consumes this amount of alcohol should disclose this information to their physicians prior to taking Tamoxifen.

In short, it is not advisable to use Tamoxifen and alcohol at the same time. The side effects associated with doing so are not likely to be fatal, but they can certainly become uncomfortable and require medical attention. Dizziness is the primary source of serious injury as it can cause people to fall.