Treatment training manual

3.14 Recreational drugs, alcohol, vitamins, supplements and complementary therapy

Some HIV drugs interact with recreational drugs, street drugs, methadone and complementary or traditional herbal therapies.

Even over-the-counter medicine like antacids and multivitamins interact with some HIV medicines.

The interactions can be complicated.

Sometimes the interactions will increase the amount of recreational drugs found in blood to dangerous levels.

Some recreational drugs can reduce the levels of HIV drugs. This increases the risk for drug resistance.

Over-the-counter antacids can interact with atazanavir.

Multivitamins can interact with integrase inhibitors.

It is therefore very important that your doctor and pharmacist know about any other drugs or supplements that you use. Even if you use them rarely. Your doctor should treat this information in confidence.

Alcohol does not interact with HIV medications.

But, more heavy alcohol use, as with recreational drug use, may reduce adherence. It would help if your healthcare workers know about this.

Several studies have shown a link between the amount of alcohol someone drinks and the chance of getting and maintaing an undetectable viral load.

Further reading

  1. Interactions between ARVs and street drugs – Medical review from 2003 on the available data on interactions between different street and recreational drugs and antiretrovirals.
  2. Alcohol and HIV questions. Link to questions on alcohol and HIV shows a range of recent questions to i-Base.
  3. Liverpool University drug interaction website.
    This resource lets you enter your HIV meds and pick the other drugs that might interact. It will then make an individualised PDF print-out of the potential interactions.

Last updated: 1 January 2016.