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Motion Sickness Medications and Alcohol Interactions

Written by L. Anderson, PharmD on Nov 7, 2017

Motion sickness occurs when the the motion you see is different from the motion you feel. Input from your eyes, your body, and your inner ears send motion signals to your brain. When these signals are mixed, motion sickness occurs.

Motion sickness occurs commonly in boats (“sea sickness”), cars, planes, and on amusement park rides. Reading in a car can often lead to motion sickness for many people. Nausea and vomiting, sweating, lightheadedness and fast heart rate can occur.

Motion sickness medications (antiemetics) can be helpful for people who suffer from this disorder. However, these drugs tend to work in the central nervous system and when combined with alcohol the drug interaction can cause extreme drowsiness or dizziness. You should avoid alcohol with motion sickness medications.

Several common medications, like:

are classified as anticholinergic antiemetics. Meclizine tends to cause less drowsiness than dimenhydrinate, and both agent are available over-the-counter. Scopolamine is a patch than can be worn behind the ear and replaced after 3 days. Promethazine (Phenergan) is an H1 receptor blocking antihistamine that provides clinically useful antiemetic effects, as well, but can cause marked drowsiness. You more commonly encounter promethazine in a hospital setting. Both scopolamine and promethazine require a prescription.

Common Motion Sickness Medications:

Generic Name Common Brand Names
cyclizine Marezine
dimenhydrinate Dramamine
promethazine Phenergan
meclizine Antivert, Bonine
scopolamine Transderm Scop

*Note: This is not a complete list; always check with your pharmacist for possible drug-alcohol interactions.

Other Ways to Prevent Motion Sickness

  • Sitting in certain positions and not facing backwards can often help prevent motion sickness.
  • Being the driver, or being in the front seat of a car, staying in the middle section of a plane or boat, and sitting by a window on a plane can help.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine (for example, coffee or energy drinks), and do not play video games or read from a mobile phone while in motion. Stay hydrated with water.

Types of Drug Interactions With Alcohol

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.