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Drug and Alcohol Interactions with HIV Meds

for Veterans and the Public

Drugs and Alcohol: Interactions with your HIV meds

HIV medications can be hard on your body, so when you are taking these medications, it is important that your liver works as well as possible. The liver is responsible for getting rid of waste products from the medications.

Once you are HIV positive, your body may react differently to alcohol and drugs. Many people find that it takes longer to recover from using pot, alcohol, or other recreational drugs than it did before they had HIV.

Remember that having HIV means a major change has taken place in your body. You may choose to use alcohol and drugs in moderation, but be sure to respect your body. Pay attention to what and how much you eat, drink, smoke, and take into your body.

Certain HIV medications can boost the level of recreational drugs in your system in unexpected and potentially dangerous ways. For example, amphetamines (such as crystal meth) can be present at 3 to 22 times their normal levels in the bloodstream when mixed with an HIV drug called ritonavir (Norvir). That's because ritonavir hampers the body's ability to break down these other drugs.

If you are going to take a recreational drug while you are on HIV medication, it is better to start with a very low amount of the recreational drug (as low as 1/4 the normal amount) and allow time to see how it affects you before increasing the amount. Keep in mind that recreational drugs aren't regulated, so you never know exactly how much you are getting.

Although you may feel uncomfortable at first, you should tell your doctor what recreational drugs you are using. That way, your doctor will know how the substances you are using affect your HIV drugs and your overall health. Most likely, your doctor will then be able to explain some things going on in your body.