Alcohol has many interactions with medications, some more severe than others. If you’re taking a steroid medication, such as prednisone, is it safe to have a glass of wine with dinner tonight? Or is it okay to go have a few beers with your friends?
Prednisone and alcohol are not the most dangerous of combinations, but there are many drawbacks of taking the two together. Here’s what you should be aware of before drinking on steroid medication, and why you might want to reconsider having that cocktail tonight.
What Is Prednisone and What Is It Prescribed For?
Prednisone is a corticosteroid—a class of medications used to treat inflammatory conditions, ranging from arthritis to skin rashes and asthma. Aside from prednisone, common corticosteroids include hydrocortisone, dexamethasone, and methylprednisolone (Medrol). These can be taken as creams, inhalants, and nasal sprays, but the strongest doses often come in the form of injections or oral tablets.
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Can I Mix Prednisone and Alcohol?
The short answer is that it’s best not to. While alcohol and prednisone have no direct negative medication interactions(, the combination can worsen certain side effects of each, and make underlying conditions harder to treat. For some, moderate drinking may be fine. But it’s important to consult your doctor before drinking on steroids, especially if you are taking an oral dose.
One of the main reasons you should avoid alcohol on prednisone is that they share similar, sometimes severe, side effects. Both prednisone and alcohol can:
- Cause digestive irritation, leading to peptic ulcers and other gastrointestinal damage.
- Increase blood sugar levels, which can elevate your risk for diabetes or related complications.
- Compromise your immune system. Steroid medications purposefully lower your immune response, while alcohol does this as a side effect.
- Weaken your bones, putting you at higher risk for osteoporosis long-term.
- Worsen insomnia. Despite alcohol’s reputation for making you drowsy, it can disturb your sleep quality.
- Raise your blood pressure. Heavy drinking is linked to hypertension, and this is a side effect of corticosteroids for some people
Alcohol might also worsen the underlying condition you are trying to manage. Intestinal inflammation, for example, is a common side effect of chronic alcohol use. If you are taking prednisone to treat a condition like inflammatory bowel disease, drinking alcohol might be counterproductive.
For these reasons, and more, it’s best to speak with a doctor who knows your medical history before taking the risk of drinking on corticosteroids.
Who Is at Highest Risk From Mixing Steroids and Alcohol?
Due to how alcohol is processed in the body, women and older adults are at higher risk for negative side effects from prednisone and alcohol. You should also be especially careful if you have diabetes, osteoporosis, digestive problems, hypertension, or a weakened immune system to begin with, as the combination can make all of these conditions worse.
How Long After Stopping Steroid Medication Can I Drink Alcohol?
It can take several weeks to months for your system to return to normal after you stop taking corticosteroids. Until then, drinking alcohol may pose some risks. Ask your primary care physician when it is safe to begin drinking alcohol again, and if so, how much.
The Bottom Line: Can I Drink Alcohol While Taking Steroids?
The risk of drinking on steroids depends on which steroid you are taking, the dose, and what condition you’re being treated for. It’s safest to assume you cannot drink on steroids like prednisone, until you’ve consulted your doctor. In some cases, moderate drinking may be possible. But heavy drinking on steroids can magnify the risks of both substances, and should be avoided.
If you’ve been prescribed steroid medication, and you’re having trouble cutting back on your alcohol use, there are new ways to find support. Our team offers expert medical consultation, weekly coaching sessions, anti-craving medications, and more—all through a smartphone app.