7 Times You Didn't Know You Should Avoid Drinking Alcohol

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Most of us enjoy going to happy hour with our friends or sipping on a glass of wine at dinner, but as fun as drinking alcohol can be, it is still something we have to choose to partake in carefully. There are a number of instances where you shouldn't drink alcohol, and these go beyond just when you're pregnant or if you have substance abuse issues. Alcohol can have profound effects on our mind and body, so to make sure we are being safe and taking care of our health, it's best to avoid drinking in circumstances where that margarita can cause much greater harm than just a hangover.

"Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it slows you down - physically and mentally," says Katie Hake, RD at IU Health over email. "A single drink can impair your reflexes for several hours."

Anyone who has had a drink or two knows the immediate and obvious effects of alcohol — hello clumsiness! — but much more can happen inside your body that you may not be able to see, and these bodily changes can have long-term and serious effects. It's therefore important to know when you should really skip hitting the bar and stick to drinking a virgin drink instead. After all, better safe than sorry.

Here are seven times you didn't know you should never drink alcohol. If you're ever unsure, consult a doctor, who can give you the best advice.

1When You're Anxious Or Depressed

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It's tempting to turn to a drink after a distressing day, but you don't want to make this a habit. "Alcohol should be avoided with many neurological diseases or other chronic diseases such as cancer, depression, or anxiety," says Hake. "Alcohol should never be used as a coping mechanism, and those with alcoholism in their family history should drink with caution." Not only can drinking when you're down increase your risk of addiction, but it can also make your anxiety or depression worse.

2When You Fly

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If you want to avoid jet lag and keep your immune system up while traveling, you'll want to skip that mid-flight glass of wine. "Drinking excess alcohol can lead to dehydration, and conditions in the cabin with altitude and lack of humidity already can be dehydrating," says Margarita Rohr, MD, clinical instructor of internal medicine at NYU Langone Health, over email. "You can also experience effects of alcohol sooner while flying."

3When You've Taken A Sedative

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If you're prescribed sedatives such as Xanax or Valium, you'll want to make sure you lay off the booze or risk messing with your heart health. "Alcohol can magnify the sedative effects, cause severe drowsiness, and cause respiratory cardiac depression or even arrest and death," says Rohr.

4When You Need A Good Night's Sleep

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A nightcap might seem like a good idea when you're trying to unwind, but it can actually ruin the quality of your sleep. "Alcohol may make you feel drowsy and help you fall asleep, but it’s not great for helping you stay asleep or feel rested in the morning," says Dr. Jennifer Caudle over email. "This is because alcohol interferes with REM sleep, which is the most restorative sleep. It also has the effect of causing you to wake up before you’re truly ready and rested. All of this can cause you to be groggy and tired the next day."

5When You're On Antibiotics

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Mixing antibiotics and alcohol is a big no-no, as it can increase the risk of side effects from both the medication and the alcohol. "Drinking alcohol while on something like metronidazole can cause unpleasant side effects, including flushing, increased heart rate, nausea, and vomiting," says Rohr.  

6When You're Trying To Reach A Fitness Goal

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Whether you're training for a marathon or just trying to boost your fitness levels by going to the gym more often, you'll want to ease up on the alcohol. "Drinking alcohol can lead to excess calorie intake and inhibit performance," says Hake. "Decreased quality of sleep may lead you to overeat or even skip the gym the next day." You don't have to cut out drinking altogether, but on days you're trying to gauge your performance, you might want to stick to water instead.

7When You're Trying To Get Pregnant

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Trying to conceive can get stressful at times, but you'll want to avoid drinking alcohol if you want the greatest chance at getting pregnant. Although the research on how low to moderate drinking affects women’s fertility isn’t totally clear, there's evidence that shows that heavy drinking affects fertility, increasing the length of time it takes to get pregnant and reducing the chances of having a healthy baby, according to The National Health and Medical Research Council.