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Alcohol and Prednisone

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Prednisone is a corticosteroid medicine that suppresses inflammation. The drug is commonly prescribed to treat asthma, arthritis, lupus, and other inflammatory disorders.

While you can drink alcohol while taking prednisone, it's best to limit your alcohol intake. 

Alcohol and prednisone do not affect each other on their own. However, heavy drinking, binge drinking, or alcohol use disorder (AUD) can cause unwanted side effects.

What is Prednisone?

Rayos is the brand name for prednisone, a type of corticosteroid. Corticosteroid is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands. 

Doctors prescribe prednisone to treat different conditions, such as:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Multiple sclerosis (an autoimmune disease affecting the brain, spinal cord, and nerves)
  • Lupus (the body’s immune system attacks tissue and organs)
  • Some forms of cancer
  • Lung inflammation
  • Asthma

Doctors also prescribe prednisone if a person has low corticosteroid levels. It can help reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.

Prednisone

Side Effects of Prednisone

Prednisone can cause different side effects even when it's taken short-term. Some common side effects include:

  • Weight gain
  • Dizziness
  • Acne 
  • Increased hair growth
  • Indigestion 
  • Muscle weakness
  • Personality changes 
  • Salt retention 
  • Elevated blood pressure 
  • Heartburn
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased blood sugar levels

More serious side effects include:

  • Cataracts
  • Eye pain
  • Glaucoma (a disease affecting the optic nerve in the eye)
  • Irregular heartbeat 
  • Severe depression
  • Psychosis 

How to Minimize Prednisone Side Effects

Here are some ways you can minimize the side effects of prednisone:

  • Take the medication on a full stomach: Remember to eat a full meal before taking prednisone. This reduces any negative side effects on your digestive tract.
  • Eat healthy food and get enough rest: When taking prednisone, your body’s defenses are low. Healthy food and rest will strengthen your immune system. 
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine: Prednisone can make you feel more alert. Avoiding stimulants can prevent insomnia and sleep issues. 
  • Limit your salt intake: Prednisone increases water retention. Stick to low-sodium food to avoid swelling and bloating. 
  • Talk to your doctor about the proper prednisone dosage: Higher prednisone dosages result in more side effects. Your doctor can recommend a different dosage or medication to counter these effects. 
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Can I Mix Alcohol and Prednisone?

Mixing prednisone with alcohol increases the risk of developing health complications. Older people are even more predisposed to this.

Drinking alcohol in excess and/or during an extended time has been shown to result in: 

Weakened immune system

Prednisone suppresses the immune system, weakening the body’s ability to fight infection. The corticosteroid may worsen, spread, or reactivate if you already have a latent infection.

Alcohol use can aggravate that side effect. When you drink alcohol, the immune response is weaker, and the risk of infection increases.

Osteoporosis

Long-term use of prednisone may cause osteoporosis. It's a disease that affects the bones' density and quality.

Doctors usually recommend taking calcium and vitamin D supplements to fortify your bones. However, alcohol use can prevent nutrient absorption, worsening the condition. 

Elevated blood pressure

Prednisone increases blood pressure. Similarly, excessive drinking can cause heart-related health issues like:

  • Cardiomyopathy (stretching and drooping of heart muscles)
  • Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats)
  • High blood pressure

Mental illnesses

There may be an association between the central nervous system and corticosteroids. Both alcohol use and prednisone can worsen mood swings or psychotic tendencies.

Weight Changes

Alcohol holds empty calories, and excessive drinking can undermine calorie balance. This is the balance between the calories you eat and burn.

Calorie imbalance can lead to a build-up of body fat. Prednisone can make weight gain possible because it affects how the body stores glycogen (carbs) in the liver. 

Other Risks

Combining prednisone with alcohol upsets your blood sugar levels. This is problematic if you have diabetes.

Heavy drinking can also stress your liver and digestive tract. This is dangerous if you have ulcerative colitis. It's a bowel disease that causes ulcers in the digestive tract.

Drinking alcohol while taking prednisone increases the risk of worsening ulcerative colitis. It can result in organ damage or lead to upper gastrointestinal bleeding.

How Much Alcohol Can I Drink on Prednisone?

In some cases, it’s safe to have one to two drinks a day when taking prednisone. Drinking in moderation is generally safe and won’t cause any side effects. 

Other factors that influence whether or not you should drink include:

  • Dosage of prednisone (you can drink on a low dose) 
  • Length of the treatment
  • Level of alcohol intake
  • History of alcohol abuse
  • Certain medical conditions

You should seek medical advice regarding your drinking habits. This minimizes any serious health risks while under treatment. 

If you're considering quitting alcohol, you should also see your doctor. Prednisone can worsen withdrawal symptoms and complicate the process. 

Healthcare providers can adjust the dosage. They can also provide further medical treatment to ensure your optimal well-being. 

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Is Prednisone Addictive?

Prednisone is not addictive. However, it can cause dependence, meaning side effects can develop when the medication is discontinued. 

There is a difference between dependence and substance addiction. A healthcare professional may prescribe a medication that can promote physical dependence. 

Alcohol and Prednisone Addiction

Alcohol can result in both 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 can occur and create unwanted health effects. 

It's important to seek medical help if you, or a loved one, have a problem with alcohol and are taking prednisone. Healthcare professionals can provide a suitable treatment plan to guide you to recovery without harming your health. 

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Summary

Mixing prednisone and alcohol can increase the risk of side effects. It's best to drink moderately or avoid alcohol altogether when taking prednisone. Consult a doctor or healthcare professional to know whether it’s safe for you to drink alcohol. 

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Updated on September 28, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. Alcohol's Effects on the Body.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020.
  2. "Controlled Substances." US Department of Justice, 2022.
  3. "Corticosteroids." NHS Inform, NHS, 2022.
  4. "Prednisone and Alcohol." Drugsdb.com, 2017.
  5. "Prednisone." Drugs.com, Cerner Multum, Inc., 2021.
  6. "Steroid tablets." NHS, Crown,. 2020.

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