Dr. Sylvester Ikhisemojie

The antibiotic, Flagyl, is perhaps one of the best known medicines in Nigeria. People use it for all sorts of things: when they have diarrhea, they use Flagyl. When they have features of indigestion, they use Flagyl. When they suffer from vaginal itching, Flagyl is their drug of choice. Worse still, when they find a child who has rectal prolapse or has intussusception, a sure killer of children who do not have surgical relief, Flagyl is also used. People have often said that they use it also for prevention of sexually transmitted infections. That is most curious because when a “good” infection strikes, this particular medication will be powerless to prevent it. Now, Flagyl is the most well known trade name for the compound Metronidazole, an antibiotic which belongs to the class of drugs known as Nitroimidazoles. In this essay today, like we have done before for medicines like Paracetamol and Amlodipine on this page, we shall examine the legitimate uses of Flagyl and the side effects it can cause.

Doctors use metronidazole to treat gram negative bacterial infections. Often, pharmacists and doctors would advise patients not to use this particular drug with alcohol. It is not an anti-diarrhoeal agent, meaning that it was not initially formulated to be used to treat diarrhea but an effective antibiotic used in the treatment of some types of diarrhea that may be caused by gram negative bacteria. There are many people who take some tablets of this drug along to parties where they often use the medicine after consuming heavy doses of various foods at such gatherings. It is an ubiquitous medicine in many homes but a lot of people are blissfully unaware that this seemingly harmless though effective medicine can cause a variety of side effects.

Flagyl can cause nausea and even vomiting. It can make a person feel unwell and leave a metallic taste in one’s mouth to the point of developing anorexia. It can also cause headaches. When it is taken with alcohol, there is a multiplication of these side effects as well as abdominal cramps and seizures. It can also cause the aggravation of problems related to digestion. Not everyone who takes this unholy combination will suffer from these side effects but it is generally a wise thing to try and avoid the use of alcohol when taking this medication. The side effects take about three days to wear off the system after its usage has been stopped and so the regular intake of alcohol can then continue for those persons who cannot do without it. With regard to being responsible for seizures, Flagyl is believed to be able to bring down the threshold for seizures to occur.

There are other reasons why Flagyl is popular within the hospital and in many homes. It is because the drug can treat or prevent many types of infections within the abdomen, the skin, bones and joints, the pericardium which is the lining of the heart and the central nervous system. It is also used in similar roles for genital tract infections and sexually transmitted infections.  To this end, this drug is available in various forms like syrup, infusion, tablets, pessaries which are inserted and pellets used in some special operations. It is indeed an antibiotic that has a wide range of applications. As its applications are wide, so are its negative effects on the body.


When alcohol is broken down and that happens in two stages, the first product that results from this process is called acetaldehyde. This is a toxic compound which is responsible for the major side effects of alcohol. It is this product that routinely kills hundreds of people in India in alcohol drinking competitions and those who consume illegitimately brewed alcohol. It is thought that similar occurrences may be found in various parts of Nigeria. The next phase of the reaction is the further breakdown to a compound known as acetate which is made possible by the activity of a particular enzyme that is effectively blocked by Flagyl. This compound simply builds up in the bloodstream as a consequence of the blockage to cause a variety of effects that are similar to a drug known as Disulfiram. This buildup in the body occurs because the person is not able to fully digest alcohol in the presence of Flagyl taken as a medication.

Disulfiram is a medication that is used to treat alcohol dependency, in other words, to wean such people off alcohol. When it is taken by such people, they often experience problems like low blood pressure, rapid heart rates, sweating, headache, and vomiting. These experiences are thought to be disagreeable to those who take a lot of alcohol and could persuade them to stop the habit. Often, however, they simply stop taking the medications altogether or find reasons not to do so and are soon back to their old habit. Disulfiram and Flagyl are thus similar in behaviour when they are taken with alcohol hence the need for caution when it is due to be used.

Flagyl is today taken by many people for the treatment for various forms of diarrhea. In most cases, the use is inappropriate. Many are fortunate to get away with it because the diarrhea they had would have resolved anyway. Some take the drug around in their purses and handbags. Yet, they often have no idea what the side effects are. For example, this is a drug that can accumulate in the blood of people who suffer from chronic liver disease. It is also true for elderly people who are at least, 70 years of age. Other people who may suffer from some kidney impairment can also suffer some of the toxic side effects of this drug. It is often amazing to see people take this medicine with such freedom when they have no idea what the dangers are.

It has been observed to be the case that when people take both alcohol and Flagyl, some adverse reactions are worse in some people than in others. Sometimes, these effects are also dependent on age and as discussed above, dependent too on other illnesses going on in the body at the same time. In the main, when people are given this medication, they are often not told to avoid alcohol in the course of using the drug and only become agitated when they do so and some unpleasant reactions have followed. The fault there is mainly with the healthcare professionals who neglect to do this because, perhaps, the use of Flagyl has become so commonplace that it is no longer seen as a serious kind of medicine. If you have developed any of the unpleasant reactions mentioned above on account of using the drug, you will have to employ specific treatments to mitigate those reactions. If you are nauseous, sip warm or tepid water. If you feel dizzy, sit down quickly to avoid falling. If the severity of those reactions does not reduce, you should see a doctor.

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