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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2015 Feb;39(2):371-9. doi: 10.1111/acer.12633. Epub 2015 Jan 16.

Prevalence of alcohol-interactive prescription medication use among current drinkers: United States, 1999 to 2010.

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Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.



The majority of Americans consume alcoholic beverages. Alcohol interacts negatively with numerous commonly prescribed medications. Yet, on a population level, little is known about use of alcohol-interactive (AI) prescription medications among drinkers. The purpose of our study was to determine the prevalence of AI prescription medication use among current drinkers in the U.S. population.


Data were from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 1999 to 2010); 26,657 adults aged ≥20 years had data on past year alcohol consumption and past month prescription medication use. Analyses were adjusted for covariates: age, race/ethnicity, education, marital status, and smoking. Statistical procedures accounted for survey stratification, clustering, and nonresponse. Analyses were weighted to be nationally representative.


The unadjusted total prevalence of AI medication use was 42.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] 41.5 to 44.0). Among current drinkers, adjusted prevalence was 41.5% (CI 40.3 to 42.7). Among participants aged ≥65 total prevalence of AI medication use was 78.6% (CI 77.3 to 79.9) and adjusted prevalence among current drinkers was 77.8% (CI 75.7 to 79.7). The AI medications most commonly used by current drinkers were cardiovascular agents, central nervous system agents, and metabolic agents.


Our results suggest that there could be substantial simultaneous exposure to alcohol and AI prescription medications in the U.S. population. Given the adverse health risks of combining alcohol with AI prescription medications, future efforts are needed to collect data to determine actual simultaneous prevalence.


Alcohol Consumption; Cross-Sectional Survey; Drinking Behavior; Drinking Patterns; Drugs; Medications; National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; Prescription Medications

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