Is it safe to drink alcohol while taking prednisone?

Drugs
Prednisone is a synthetic form of adrenocortical steroid that doctors can prescribe to treat several different conditions.

Prednisone can help balance hormones in people whose adrenal glands do not produce enough corticosteroids.

It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and can help treat diseases that cause inflammation, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis. Prednisone can also alter the function of the immune system.

Whether they are taking a short course of the medication or need to use it long-term, people often wonder if they can drink alcohol while taking prednisone.

This article will explore the side effects of prednisone and alcohol and whether they might be safe to use together.


Alcohol and prednisone

Woman holding a prednisone pill and a glass of alcohol
A person should speak to a doctor before drinking alcohol and when taking prednisone.

There is no straightforward answer to whether it is safe to drink alcohol while taking prednisone. It depends on several factors, including:

  • how large the dosage of prednisone is
  • whether it is a short- or long-term course of treatment
  • how much alcohol the person drinks

In general, a person’s doctor can best determine whether mixing prednisone with alcohol will be safe.

The main concern about using prednisone and alcohol is that alcohol can make the side effects of prednisone much worse.

Side effects and risks

Potential risks of using alcohol and prednisone together include:

Gastrointestinal problems

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 infection 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.

Weight gain

While multiple factors are involved, research suggests that alcohol intake can lead to weight gain in some people. Weight gain is also a possible side effect of prednisone.

Brittle bones

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.

Tips and precautions

person spooning coffee grounds
A person should avoid caffeine, which may worsen insomnia.

There are several precautions to take while on prednisone:

  • Take prednisone with food to prevent stomach upset.
  • Consult a doctor before taking prednisone while pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Speak with a doctor before receiving vaccinations while on prednisone.
  • Do not stop a dosage of prednisone unless a doctor advises it.
  • Ask a doctor about potassium or calcium supplements.
  • Eat healthful, well-balanced meals to avoid weight gain and keep blood sugar under control.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine because these can worsen insomnia, a side effect of prednisone.


Summary

Whether it is safe to drink alcohol while on prednisone depends on the dosage of the medication, the length of the course of treatment, and how frequently a person uses alcohol.

A person taking a short course of prednisone may want to avoid alcohol until they finish the treatment.

Alcohol can worsen some side effects of prednisone, such as immune system suppression, bone weakening, and weight gain. It is best to speak with a doctor to avoid serious complications.

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