Smoking While Taking Antibiotics: How Harmful Is It?

Antibiotics - Printed Diagnosis with Blurred Text

Most smokers and non-smokers are aware of the negative health effects of cigarette smoking. It is clearly stated in the simplest TV advertisement from tobacco cigarette manufacturers that smoking can kill, causes cancer, and may hurt your children.

Visual ads and graphic materials make sure that the general idea of the harms of smoking sinks into our brain. However, how about smoking when taking prescribed antibiotics? Is there a direct connection between the two?

How Smoking Alters Our Bodily Functions

Seven seconds after a smoker ‘puffs’ from a lit cigarette, the brain begins to function in an irregular manner. From the lungs, nicotine-packed blood is carried to the central nervous system and alters the amount of brain chemicals being produced. In fact, researchers say that smoking cigarettes acts like heroin when affecting the brain. As a result, the smoker’s mood and focus are improved and depending on the quantity of nicotine that reaches the brain, the person is either relaxed or stimulated.

While this happens, the same addictive nicotine together with over 7000 more chemicals is carried around the body through the blood. These chemicals build up in the lungs, heart, digestive system, and interferes with the body’s immune system. Antibodies are suppressed, immune cells are decreased, and natural killer cells that destroy cancerous cells decline. Consequently, the smoker becomes prone to infections that require antibacterial medication for treatment.

Smoking Is Connected to Antibacterial Medication

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), smoking increases the likelihood of chronic illnesses and infection.

In a study conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health on Cigarette Smoking and Risk of Subsequent Use of Antibacterials, smokers were more often prescribed with antibiotics. Male and female heavy smokers had a 68% and 82% increase in antibacterial prescription incidence compared to non-smokers. The same study concluded that smoking, depending on severity, affected the ability of the smoker to respond to antibacterial medications in the long term.

Does Smoking Interfere with Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are a product of modern science that has become an indispensable medication for treating different infections. It is not yet established whether smoking has direct effects on antibiotics, such that it interferes chemically with the latter. However, smoking does slow down the recovery process of a person with the infection.

Clinical studies done since the 1950s have shown that smokers had longer recovery time compared to non-smokers and those who do not smoke during treatment. Smokers have a higher risk of relapse, especially of respiratory diseases and infections, and are therefore subject to frequent antibacterial treatment within their lifetime.

When this happens, the liver is damaged, and good bacteria from the body are likewise destroyed. The overall immune system is harmed, the person becomes more susceptible to bacterial infection, and the cycle goes on. Most smokers continue the habit until they suffer from more serious illnesses that begin as seemingly harmless ailments like a cough, bronchitis, and the like.

To maximize the effectiveness of antibacterial medication during infections, smokers who have certain infections should quit smoking and get sufficient nourishment for their bodies. There are plenty of ways to help smokers stop the habit, such as the use of nicotine replacement aids and counseling.

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Published: September 9, 2015 Updated: May 14, 2019



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4 comments on “Smoking While Taking Antibiotics: How Harmful Is It?

  • Jonathan

    August 23, 2019 at 10:20 pm

    Cannabis smoke of 19 years here. Just got my first bout of strep and got a shot of penicillin in my butt. Smoking was hurting my throat so bad so I knew somthing was up. I wanna get high so bad but it’s only been 5 hours since I got the shot… Ugh wish I could smoke

  • Gene Gustafson

    January 2, 2018 at 11:47 pm

    I live with my girlfriend and her sister Laurie smokes cigarettes and takes medications for infection on her legs that were very seriously infected and she drank BEER but quit drinking and we told her to quit smoking and she said she wouldn’t do that and I have breathing problems and girlfriend is on the C-cap and she has a breathing problem with her type 2 diabetes and on insulin as I am on Metiformen for type 2 diabetes.

    • Emucis

      March 14, 2018 at 4:05 pm

      If you replaced your ‘ands’ with a full stop, your points with improve in clarity significantly!
      As far as smoking, one only lives once!
      Best of luck

    • Danny

      November 4, 2018 at 12:16 am

      What about smoking vape while on it??