Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/5/2020
Valacyclovir is an antiviral medication that’s used to treat a variety of herpes viruses, including HSV-1and HSV-2, herpes zoster and the herpes B virus. Because the herpes virus is so common--affecting roughly 65% of the world population aged 14-49--there are a lot of questions about it out there. One of the most common is whether or not it's safe to combine valacyclovir and alcohol.
In this guide, we're going to touch on valacyclovir, its usage, dosage, side effects and how using it with alcohol isn't a good idea.
As one of the most common herpes medications, valacyclovir is used safely and effectively by millions of people worldwide. Most people use valacyclovir during periodic herpes outbreaks to control symptoms, or in response to an initial outbreak of HSV-1, HSV-2 or shingles.
Valacyclovir doesn’t cure herpes, but it’s highly effective at treating the symptoms of herpes and speeding up the healing process after an outbreak. As a powerful antiviral drug, it’s also used to treat other viruses, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV).
Like with all medications, it’s important to exercise caution when you’re taking valacyclovir. This is particularly important if you’re using the medication during a herpes or shingles outbreak, at which time you might also experience significant symptoms from the outbreak itself.
One common valacyclovir-related question is whether or not valacyclovir and alcohol is a safe combination.
Since HSV-1 and HSV-2 outbreaks can occur several times a year, with HSV-2 outbreaks more frequent, it’s likely that you’ll experience some situations in which alcohol is present while taking valacyclovir to treat herpes. That's just a fact of life.
Unfortunately, valacyclovir side effects can be difficult to manage on their own, and are only exacerbated by extensive alcohol consumption.
Valacyclovir side effects include vomiting, nausea, dizziness, headaches, diarrhea and stomach pain, all of which can potentially worsen if you’re intoxicated. Valacyclovir can also cause drowsiness and mood changes—another side effect that can obviously worsen if you consume alcohol. Drunk texting your ex is brutal, but we'd wager it's even tougher if you do it during a herpes outbreak.
Of these side effects, dizziness and drowsiness are of particular concern. Doctors recommend not to consume alcohol while taking valacyclovir, as the combination of valacyclovir and alcohol can potentially lead to an excessive, dangerous level of dizziness or drowsiness.
Alcohol can also increase the nausea and vomiting side effects that can occur in some people prescribed valacyclovir, making consuming alcohol an unpleasant experience.
Many people prescribed valacyclovir report a reduced tolerance for alcohol while using the drug, meaning that even a small amount of alcohol can potentially lead to some level of intoxication.
Additionally, drinking alcohol, particularly to excess, can weaken your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight back against an HSV-1 or HSV-2 outbreak. This could potentially slow down the healing process and reduce many of the benefits of valacyclovir as a herpes treatment.
And if you’re taking valacyclovir for shingles, the best course of action is to avoid alcohol until the infection has healed. Drinking alcohol can significantly slow down the rate at which shingles heals, as well as potentially interfering with pain medications often used in shingles treatment.
In a nutshell? Unfortunately, no.
Your body's reaction to the medication varies greatly depending on a few things—valacyclovir dosage, your body's immune system, the stage and severity of your outbreak, and what kind of herpes outbreak you're experiencing, to name a few—but as a general rule, it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol while you’re taking valacyclovir, especially if you’re using it to treat symptoms and speed up the healing process during a herpes or shingles outbreak.
It's a bummer, but it's the truth.
If you take valacyclovir as part of a daily suppressive herpes therapy treatment, it’s best to talk to your doctor about the safety of consuming alcohol during therapy before drinking wine, beer or other alcohol beverages. If you want to know more about valacyclovir dosage and what you can expect while on the medication, check out our Valacyclovir Dosage guide.