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Healthy Living

What Selma Blair's 'Outburst' Teaches Us About Mixing Pills And Alcohol

It's risky -- and common.
Mixing alcohol with medication, as Selma Blair did on a recent flight back from Cancun, can have disastrous health implications.
Mixing alcohol with medication, as Selma Blair did on a recent flight back from Cancun, can have disastrous health implications.

Selma Blair issued an apology on Tuesday for what was described as "an outburst" for which she was reportedly removed from a Delta flight on a stretcher.

TMZ cited unnamed witnesses in its account of the incident, which happened on a Monday flight from Mexico to Los Angeles. They reported Blair said things like, "He burns my private parts. He won't let me eat or drink," and "He's going to kill me," prior to being removed from the plane.

“I made a big mistake yesterday," Blair said, in part, in an exclusive statement to Vanity Fair. "After a lovely trip with my son and his dad, I mixed alcohol with medication, and that caused me to black out and led me to say and do things that I deeply regret... I take this very seriously, and I apologize to all of the passengers and crew that I disturbed and am thankful to all of the people who helped me in the aftermath."

Mixing alcohol with medication is risky -- and common

While Blair didn't specify which medication she was taking, mixing pills with alcohol is a real risk, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol makes some medications less effective, and interactions between the two substances can can cause nausea, vomiting, fainting, loss of coordination, internal bleeding heart problems and difficulty breathing, just to name a few complications.

More than 560,000 people were sent to the emergency room in 2010 because of drug misuse in combination with alcohol, a figure that includes both pharmaceutical and illicit drugs, according to a report by the Drug Abuse Warning Network.

It's not just prescription meds of which you should be wary: Over-the-counter medications and even herbal remedies or supplements can be harmful when combined with alcohol.

“The more often you drink alcohol, the more likely you are to have an interaction with a medication,” Aaron White, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told BuzzFeed Life in 2015. “You can look at it the opposite way, too: The more often you take medication, the more likely you are to have it interact with alcohol.”

For women and older adults, the risk is even higher

Because women's bodies generally contain less water content than men's, a woman's blood alcohol level will rise faster than a man's if they are drinking the same amount. This puts women at a higher risk for alcohol-related liver damage.

Older adults can't break down alcohol as quickly as their younger counterparts, which means alcohol stays in their bodies longer, giving it more opportunity to interact with medication. And senior citizens are more likely to be taking one or more medications that shouldn't be mixed with alcohol in the first place.

As always, you should talk with your health care provider before taking any medication to ensure that you understand the risks, including possible alcohol interactions.

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