Prednisone is a type of medication known as a corticosteroid and is used to treat various health problems that cause inflammation in the body. Corticosteroids are widely used in almost all fields of medicine currently.
Because of prednisone’s widespread use in medicine, there has been much research invested in the short- and long-term effects of prednisone. Combined with the consequences of alcohol misuse, there are health risks associated with mixing prednisone and alcohol.
One study found that 1 in 5 Americans received a prescription for a corticosteroid over three years. The same study also noted an increased risk of adverse health effects.
With more than 86% of adults reporting alcohol consumption in America, the possibility of ingesting both prednisone and alcohol is relatively high.
What are the specific risks associated with prednisone and alcohol?
Potential risks of using alcohol and prednisone together include:
Prednisone can increase the risk of gastrointestinal disturbance. Long-term use of alcohol causes inflammation of the stomach lining, which can lead to stomach ulcers, heartburn, and malnutrition. People with existing stomach issues, such as heartburn, should avoid using prednisone and alcohol together.
Weakened immune system
Another side effect of prednisone is a weakened immune system, which can make people more vulnerable to infections. The body may have more trouble fighting off diseases than it usually would. Exposure to measles or chickenpox can cause more severe infections in people taking steroids. Alcohol also weakens the immune system. Chronic alcohol use can make it easier for people to become ill with pneumonia or tuberculosis, for example, anyone who takes prednisone and drinks alcohol regularly has a higher risk of developing an infection.
Long-term prednisone use can make the bones weaker and more brittle, leading to osteoporosis. Alcohol use is also a risk factor for osteoporosis, due to loss of nutrients. Having osteoporosis puts a person at risk of severe bone fractures.
Blood sugar changes
Alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to drop, which can be problematic for a person with diabetes. People with diabetes also need to be aware that alcohol can cause inflammation of the pancreas and lead to complications. Prednisone can increase blood sugar levels. Anyone with diabetes who is taking prednisone may require more insulin or medication to lower their blood sugar.
Prednisone And Alcohol: To Drink or Not to Drink?
Overall, it is a safer option to avoid drinking alcohol while you are on prednisone. However, if you really want to drink for whatever reason, you can talk to your doctor about having a drink or two every now and then.
If you are about to start taking prednisone and tend to be a regular drinker or you abuse alcohol, you must talk to your doctor before starting the prescription. Remember always to be honest with your doctor about your drinking habits.
What About Just One Drink?
Studies have shown that when adults start to take prednisone, they need to reduce or stop their alcohol intake. However, with a doctor’s permission, drinking just one drink may be perfectly fine, though before doing so, you need to understand the risks and the symptoms that you need to be on the lookout for.
When to See a Doctor If You’re Mixing Prednisone and Alcohol
If you do decide to drink while taking prednisone, there are certain side effects that you should be on the lookout for. If you or a loved one experience any of the following, reach out to a medical professional immediately, as it could be a sign of a more severe reaction:
- Coughing up blood
- Seeing halos
- Eye pain
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
Treatment Options For Prednisone And Alcohol Abuse
If you develop problems due to prednisone and alcohol use, including dependency, there is a number of different treatment options. If it is a side effect of the combination, you can seek medical care at a hospital/ER or with your primary care doctor depending on the severity.
If you are dealing with dependency, there are many different places (clinics, hospitals, private offices) that you can go to. There they will help you detox and then deal with the psychological aspects of dependency with a psychotherapist or other professional. ALSO READ: Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Abortion Pill?