Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Steroids?

Drinking alcohol while on prednisone may carry heightened risks for some people. For patients with existing medical conditions, drinking alcohol while on prednisone is not recommended. Patients should always consult with their doctor beforehand.
Evidence Based
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What is Prednisone?

Prednisone is an FDA-approved, delayed-release corticosteroid tablet. This medication is anti-inflammatory and is prescribed to treat the symptoms of low cortisol levels. 

Cortisol is a hormone that is naturally produced in the body and helps to maintain the body’s normal functioning. Prednisone is also used to treat other conditions in patients with normal cortisol levels, and works by suppressing the immune system and reducing swelling, redness and allergic reactions.

prednisone

Prednisone is used to treat a broad range of illnesses including:

  • Arthritis
  • Blood disorders
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Conditions of the lungs, skin, eyes, kidneys, blood, and thyroid
  • Eye conditions
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Immunosuppressive or endocrine disorders
  • Lupus
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Respiratory illnesses
  • Skin conditions
  • Severe allergic reactions

What Are The Side Effects Of Short Term Prednisone Use?

Most patients do not develop side effects if taking steroid tablets for short periods, but side effects may occur if taken for longer periods of time.

Common side effects of prednisone include: 

  • Adrenal suppression
  • Acne
  • Cataracts
  • Changes in fat distribution
  • Changes in mood and personality
  • Decreased libido
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Dizziness
  • Edema
  • Eye bulging
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Increased hair growth
  • Increased sweating
  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • Red or purple blotches or lines under the skin
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Thin, fragile skin
  • Weak muscles

Most side effects subside once treatment stops. Patients should discuss with their doctor if they persist or bother them. 

What Is Prednisone Used For?

Steroid tablets are made of synthetic hormones to replace the cortisol normally produced in the adrenal glands. Steroids reduce inflammation and can treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, and Crohn’s disease.

Steroids suppress the immune system, the body's natural defense against illness and infection. A suppressed immune system might be a desirable effect for people with autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body. For others, a weakened immune system means increased vulnerability to diseases and sickness. This can help treat autoimmune conditions. 

Common examples of steroid tablets include prednisolone, betamethasone, and dexamethasone. Steroid tablets are available by prescription and also come in dissolvable, liquid, and syrup versions. They should be stored at room temperature. 

Can you Drink Alcohol with Prednisone?

The FDA does not warn against drinking while on prednisone. And for many, drinking alcohol while taking prednisolone could be considered safe. However, drinking while on prednisone may carry heightened risks for some based on prednisone’s effect on lowering the immune system and the side effects of alcohol use. 

For patients with existing medical conditions, drinking alcohol while on prednisone is not recommended. Patients should always consult with their doctor before drinking alcohol with prednisone to avoid possible complications.

Side Effects of Mixing Prednisone and Alcohol

Short-term side effects may include:

  • Indigestion and stomach upset
  • Weakened immune system and greater susceptibility to illness
  • Mood changes and anxiety
  • High blood sugar
  • High blood pressure

Long-term side effects:

  • Depression
  • Ulcerative colitis and peptic ulcers
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Brittle bone disorders, bone fractures, and osteoporosis
  • Greater risk for type 2 diabetes
  • Slower healing
  • Weight gain

Dangers of Mixing Prednisone and Alcohol

Long-term use of prednisone and alcohol is linked to an increased risk of certain health problems. The dangers of mixing prednisone and alcohol include:

  • Suppressed immune system and increased risk of infection
  • A decrease in bone density and risk of developing bone disorders including osteoporosis, idiopathic osteonecrosis of the femoral head, and fractures
  • Increased blood sugar levels and risk of developing type 2 diabetes and diabetes complications
  • Irritation of stomach lining and risk of developing gastrointestinal disorders including ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, and heartburn
  • Mood changes and increased risk of developing depression and anxiety
  • Increased risk of developing decreased quality of self-care and difficulty managing chronic illness

Patients with pre-existing conditions carry greater risks of developing complications than others. Patients should always speak with their healthcare provider first to avoid complications and learn if drinking while on prednisone is safe for them.

What Else Should You Not Take With Prednisone?

Over 484 drugs are known to interact with prednisone.

Common drugs that interact with prednisone include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungals
  • Birth control pills and other hormones
  • Blood pressure medications & blood thinners
  • Diuretics or "water pills"
  • Hepatitis C medications
  • HIV or AIDS medicines
  • Immunosuppressive drugs like cyclosporine
  • Insulin or diabetes medications
  • NSAIDs, including aspirin and ibuprofen 
  • Seizure medications
  • St. John's wort
  • Tuberculosis medications 

Patients taking steroid tablets should also avoid vaccines because steroids suppress the immune system and make them more susceptible to viruses and illnesses. 

Before taking prednisone, patients should tell their healthcare provider what other medications, vitamins, herbal products, and nutritional supplements they take or plan to take to ensure that prednisone is safe for them.

Prednisone and Alcohol FAQs

Does alcohol kill prednisone?

There is no evidence that alcohol kills prednisone or renders it ineffective. But alcohol abuse and addiction can cause a patient to ignore important habits of self-care, crucial to patients who use prednisone for the treatment of chronic illnesses.

The effects of alcohol abuse and addiction make it difficult for patients to maintain their medication regimens, which may cause complications. In addition, alcohol can enhance prednisone’ immunosuppressive effects, which may make the patient susceptible to additional illnesses.

What does prednisone do to your body?

Prednisone suppresses the body’s immune system. Prednisone can help lower certain immune-related symptoms such as inflammation and swelling by preventing the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation. 

Should I drink more water while taking prednisone?

Prednisone causes the body to lose potassium and retain sodium (salt), which can lead to bloating, fluid retention, and weight gain. To reduce these effects, you can drink more water and exercise regularly to help with fluid retention.


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Resources

“Ask the Experts: Contraindications and Precautions”. Immunize.org. Immunization Action Coalition, 27 Aug. 2020, www.immunize.org/askexperts/contraindications-precautions.asp.

Fukushima, W et al. “The effect of alcohol intake and the use of oral corticosteroids on the risk of idiopathic osteonecrosis of the femoral head: a case-control study in Japan.” The bone & joint journal vol. 95-B,3 (2013): 320-5. doi:10.1302/0301-620X.95B3.30856 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23450014/

“Prednisone.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 15 Mar. 2020, https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601102.html

“Prednisone.” National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, 25 Aug. 2010, www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/drugs/prednisone.

Prednisolone. United Kingdom National Health Service. 22 Jan. 2019, www.nhs.uk/medicines/prednisolone/.

“Prednisone Drug Interactions.” Drugs.com, www.drugs.com/drug-interactions/prednisone-index.html.

Puckett Y, Gabbar A, Bokhari AA. Prednisone. [Updated 2020 Apr 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534809/

Sampson, H. Wayne. “Alcohol and Other Factors Affecting Osteoporosis Risk in Women.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 2003, https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-4/292-298.htm

“Steroids.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 9 June 2020, https://medlineplus.gov/steroids.html

“Steroid Tablets.” NHS Choices, NHS, 2020, www.nhs.uk/conditions/Steroid-tablets/

Tamez-Pérez, Héctor Eloy et al. “Steroid hyperglycemia: Prevalence, early detection and therapeutic recommendations: A narrative review.” World journal of diabetes vol. 6,8 (2015): 1073-81. doi:10.4239/wjd.v6.i8.1073 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4515447/

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Updated on: October 16, 2020
Author
Addiction Group Staff
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
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