Alcohol in Cough Syrup and other Over-the-Counter Medicines

People are often surprised at the level of alcohol in cough syrup or other over-the-counter medicines. You might also like to visit Foods that Contain Alcohol.

Alcohol is often a major component of cough syrup and other medications. To the right is an alphabetical list of many medicines with a high alcohol content.

Medication% Alcohol
Ambesol Gel70.0
Contact Severe Cold25.0
Dent’s Toothache Drops60.0
Dewitt Coldsore90.0
Double Action Kit60.0
Dristan Ultra25.0
Formula 44D20.0
Night Relief25.0
Pfeiffer Coldsore85.0
Quiet Night25.0
Romilar III20.0
Romilar CF20.0
Terpin Hydrate with DM40.0


It’s important to be aware of how much alcohol your meds contain. Laws against driving under the influence don’t distinguish between sources of blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

The alcohol can come from drinking alcoholic beverages. It can come from medicines. Or it can come from that produced naturally in the body. That is, it can come from endogenous ethanol produced by every human body.

However, they’re all the same to a breathalyzer and in the eyes of the law.

Breathalyzer devices lack high reliability. So they often register falsely high readings. Therefore, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Always be sure to drink alcohol carefully when taking meds. Read their labels and follow them.

Here are tips for keeping your BAC legal.

  • Stick with standard drink sizes. Each has the same amount of pure alcohol. So it’s easier to keep track of your intake of pure alcohol that way.
  • Munch while drinking.
  • Sip your drinks.
  • Don’t play drinking games.
  • Remember that women can’t drink as much as a man.
  • Have a non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic ones.
  • Pace your drinks. A general rule of thumb is no more than one alcoholic drink per hour.
  • Accept an alcoholic drink only when it fits your consumption schedule.
cough syrup

Trivia: Alcohol is listed as medicinal in the United States Pharmacopeia.

This web site does not provide medical opinion or advice. Always see a doctor for health and medical advice.