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Does Alcohol Affect Prednisone?
Prednisone is a type of corticosteroid that when administered, can cause different side effects, even in short-term use. Brand names include Deltasone, PredniSONE Intensol, and Rayos.
Some of these side effects can include:
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Peptic ulcers
- Mood changes
- Increased risk of bacterial or viral infection.
As a result, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before consuming alcohol. While moderate alcohol consumption may not cause any severe health problems while taking prednisone, heavy drinking, binge drinking, or alcohol use disorder (AUD) can cause unwanted side effects and intensify the effects of the corticosteroid.
For example, heavy drinking puts stress on the liver and GI tract (otherwise known as the digestive tract) and results in organ damage. When combined with prednisone, the risk of developing a stomach ulcer or gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) that leads to upper gastrointestinal bleeding increases.
Older people have an increased risk of serious alcohol-medication interaction. As an adult gets older, the body has more difficulty in metabolizing alcohol quickly. This means that alcohol stays in the body for a longer time and can continue interacting with the drug.
Drinking alcohol in excess and/or during an extended time has also been shown to weaken the immune system, elevate blood pressure, affect weight and blood sugar levels, and prevent the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals.
What is Prednisone?
Prednisone is a corticosteroid prescribed for different medical conditions, including:
- Some types of arthritis (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis)
- Severe allergic reactions
- Ulcerative colitis
- Multiple sclerosis (an autoimmune disease that affects the brain, spinal cord, and nerves)
- Lupus (a condition in which the body’s own immune system attacks tissue and organs)
- Some forms of cancer.
A healthcare professional may also prescribe prednisone either alone or with other treatment options for those with symptoms caused by low corticosteroid levels. When the body has trouble producing corticosteroids naturally (hormones produced in the adrenal glands for proper body functioning), prednisone can copy the hormones’ effects. It takes approximately 60 minutes for the liver to metabolize prednisone to its active form, prednisolone.
Prescribed prednisone doses that exceed the body’s normal corticosteroid levels can help reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system. The oral medication is available in four forms:
- Delayed-release tablet
- Solution (liquid)
- Concentrated solution
Common side effects of the anti-inflammatory drug include:
- Weight gain
- Increased hair growth
- Muscle weakness
- Personality changes
- Salt retention
- Elevated blood pressure
- Increased appetite
More serious side effects include but are not limited to:
- Eye conditions, such as cataracts, eye pain, glaucoma (a disease that affects the optic nerve in the eye)
- Irregular heartbeat
- Severe depression or psychosis
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Risks & Side Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Prednisone
Mixing prednisone with alcohol poses a higher risk of serious health conditions. Drinking alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to drop, which can be problematic for a person with diabetes. Prednisone can increase blood sugar levels.
These are examples of side effects caused by prednisone that could worsen with alcohol consumption:
- Weakened immune system — as prednisone suppresses the immune system, it can weaken the body’s ability to fight infection. If an individual already has a latent infection, the corticosteroid may worsen, spread or reactivate it. That said, alcohol use can aggravate that side effect. When individuals drink alcohol, the immune response is weaker and the risk of infection increases.
- Osteoporosis — long-term use of prednisone may cause osteoporosis (a disease that affects the bones' density and quality). In this case, a health professional may recommend taking calcium and vitamin D supplements to fortify bones. However, alcohol use can result in the body’s inability to absorb nutrients and worsen the osteoporosis.
- Elevated blood pressure —prednisone has been shown to increase blood pressure. Similarly, excessive drinking can cause heart-related health issues, such as cardiomyopathy (stretching and drooping of heart muscle) and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), as well as high blood pressure.
- Mental illnesses — there may be an association between the central nervous system and corticosteroids. Both alcohol use and prednisone may worsen mood swings or psychotic tendencies.
- Changes in weight — As alcohol holds empty calories, excessive drinking can undermine calorie balance (the balance between calories provided from foods and the calories used during metabolic processes and physical activity) and lead to a build-up of body fat. Prednisone could make weight gain more possible because it affects how the body stores glycogen (carbs) in the liver.
Since prednisone weakens the body’s defense system, it is important to avoid people who have chickenpox or measles. The drug makes individuals especially susceptible to those diseases.
When to See a Doctor
Alcohol consumption may impact individuals taking prednisone. It is recommended that individuals seek medical advice regarding their alcohol use habits. Doing so may help to minimize any serious health risks while under treatment.
Individuals considering quitting alcohol should also consult their healthcare providers before stopping. Doing otherwise may result in withdrawal symptoms that can decline while taking prednisone.
Healthcare providers can adjust the dosage and provide any further medical treatment to ensure individuals’ optimal well-being.
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Risks of Prednisone and Alcohol Addiction
There is a difference between physical dependence and substance addiction. A healthcare professional may prescribe a medication that can promote physical dependence. In contrast, some drugs may not cause dependence, and an individual may choose to take those substances despite the negative consequences.
Prednisone has not been shown to be addictive. It can, however, cause physical dependence.
Alcohol, on the other hand, can result in both an addiction and physical dependence. Alcohol abuse and dependence are referred to as alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Alcohol and prednisone use can lead to drug interactions. Misuse of both substances may occur and create unwanted health effects.
It is important to seek medical help if you or a loved one have a problem with alcohol and are taking prednisone. Healthcare professionals can provide the most suitable treatment plan for you and guide you to recovery without harming your health.