The Dangers of Mixing ZzzQuil and Alcohol

mixing ZzzQuil and alcohol

Battling insomnia can be incredibly challenging. Lack of sleep can affect your mood, appetite, motivation, and ability to focus or function productively throughout the day. When fighting a bout of insomnia, many Americans tend to turn toward over-the-counter nighttime sleep aids to get a restful night of sleep.

When taken on occasion and as directed, over-the-counter sleep aids can be safe and effective. They can help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and restore a healthy sleep cycle. However, because many sleep aids are sold without a prescription, people tend to underestimate the risks associated with taking them, such as mixing them with alcohol.

One of the most popular over-the-counter sleep medications is ZzzQuil, a medication that comes in pill, capsule, and liquid form. Mixing ZzzQuil and alcohol can lead to heavy sedation and drowsiness, thereby reducing coordination, reaction time, and inhibitions.

What is ZzzQuil?

ZzzQuil is a nighttime sleep aid that is sold over the counter without a prescription. The active ingredient in ZzzQuil is diphenhydramine, the same active ingredient in Benadryl.

Diphenhydramine is classified as an antihistamine because it suppresses histamine reactions, effectively treating allergic reactions, hives, and itchiness. However, one of the most common side effects of antihistamines like diphenhydramine is drowsiness.[1]

ZzzQuil is approved for treating short-term sleep difficulties in people over the age of 12. The drowsiness caused by the medication can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep at night, therefore, combating insomnia.

ZzzQuil comes in tablet, pill, and liquid form, each of which contains 50mg of diphenhydramine. However, the liquid form also contains 10% alcohol.

The manufacturer suggests that people should not take ZzzQuil for more than two weeks. People who are still having sleep difficulties after two weeks should consult their doctor for alternative treatments and a proper diagnosis.

Side Effects of ZzzQuil (Diphenhydramine)

Diphenhydramine is known to cause a variety of side effects:[1]

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Loss of coordination
  • Dry mouth and nasal passages
  • Constipation
  • Euphoria
  • Involuntary muscle movements
  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Low blood pressure
  • Blurry vision
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Early menstruation
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Appetite loss and anorexia

On rare occasions, more serious side effects may occur, such as:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Anemia
  • Allergic reactions

What Happens if You Mix ZzzQuil and Alcohol?

Both ZzzQuil and alcohol are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, meaning they slow down the CNS resulting in decreased heart rate, respiration, and more. As a result, using them together will increase the side effects of each, causing:

  • Extreme fatigue and sleepiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Severe confusion
  • Painful headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Memory problems
  • Low blood pressure
  • Difficulty moving
  • Slowed breathing
  • Respiratory depression

Drinking alcohol while taking liquid ZzzQuil containing alcohol can further exacerbate these risks and worsen side effects. In high doses, mixing alcohol and ZzzQuil can lead to an overdose or alcohol poisoning.

Other dangers of mixing alcohol and ZzzQuil include:

  • Poor decision making
  • Drug driving (studies have found that people who take ZzzQuil may be more than or just as impaired when driving as people who have drunk alcohol)[2]
  • Accidental injury as a result of drowsiness or impaired coordination
  • Dehydration
  • Blackouts (temporary memory loss while impaired)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Alcohol poisoning/overdose

Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning and Overdose

Since ZzzQuil can enhance the effects of alcohol, especially if the ZzzQuil contains alcohol itself, mixing the two substances increases the risk of alcohol poisoning. Without prompt medical treatment alcohol poisoning can be a life-threatening condition, so you should call 911 if someone you love may be suffering.

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:[3]

  • Mental confusion and stupor
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Inability to wake up
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Clammy skin
  • Low body temperature
  • Bluish-colored skin, lips, and/or fingernails

Can You Get Addicted to ZzzQuil?

Even though it’s legal, alcohol is highly addictive. In fact, more than 29.5 million people ages 12 and older have an alcohol use disorder (AUD).[4] However, ZzzQuil and other diphenhydramine products can be addictive, too. Using diphenhydramine in any form for longer than two weeks can be physically and psychologically addictive. People who are addicted to diphenhydramine may experience mild to severe withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking it abruptly and should seek help from a trusted drug and alcohol detox center.

Find Help Today

If you or someone you love are addicted to alcohol or diphenhydramine (ZzzQuil), know that there is compassionate treatment available. At Moving Mountains Recovery, we make starting your recovery easy. With one simple phone call, we can assess your needs, verify your insurance, place you in a detox program, and make arrangements for your continued care. Start the process today by giving us a call. Our dedicated admissions counselors are available 24 hours a day to help.


  1. National Institute of Health DailyMed: ZZZQUIL- diphenhydramine hydrochloride capsule, liquid filled, Retrieved May 2023 from
  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA): Some Medicines and Driving Don’t Mix, Retrieved May 2023 from
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Alcohol’s Effects on Health, Retrieved May 2023 from
  4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the United States, Retrieved May 2023 from
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