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Alcoholism And COPD – Does Alcohol Affect COPD?

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COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a group of diseases that cause airflow blockages and breathing problems. Millions of Americans suffer from this condition, and many may not even realize they have it. For people who have COPD, large amounts of alcohol can be dangerous.

Alcohol has various physical and mental effects on anyone who chooses to drink. For people with COPD, alcohol can increase the risk of lung problems, sleep disruptions, and allergies.

While alcohol is not shown to greatly affect a person’s COPD, large amounts of this drug can create a problem for people with this condition. Fortunately, COPD and alcoholism are both treatable conditions.

If you or someone close to you is unable to cut back or stop drinking, Vertava Health offer treatment for people with co-occurring health conditions like alcoholism and COPD.

Alcohol’s Impact On The Body

Alcohol is the most commonly consumed substance in the U.S. While many people can have an occasional social drink, others struggle to control their alcohol intake.

Heavy alcohol use is associated with many adverse health conditions, including respiratory infection. Large amounts of alcohol lower a person’s immune system, which can have a direct impact on a person’s lung function and COPD symptoms.

However, small amounts of alcohol have not been shown to worsen a person’s COPD symptoms. When it comes to alcohol intake, some studies have shown that moderate drinking can actually decrease a person’s number of COPD “flare-ups.” That said, it’s important to note that moderate drinking means 1-2 standard drinks of alcohol.

One standard drink of alcohol includes:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 2 to 3 ounces of cordial or liqueur
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor/spirits

For most people who have breathing problems, small amounts of alcohol aren’t shown to significantly affect their COPD. However, even small amounts of alcohol can lead a person to experience side effects that could have an impact on their breathing.

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Does Alcohol Affect Lung Function In People With COPD?

Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive disease characterized by an inability to control their alcohol intake. When a person drinks large amounts of alcohol, the drug affects every system of the body. This includes the pulmonary system, which relies on healthy lung function.

Because COPD disrupts a person’s ability to breathe normally, alcohol can exacerbate these symptoms for some people. This happens because alcohol decreases the lungs’ ability to clear mucus. Compromised breathing and wheezing can result.

Does Alcohol Affect Sleep Quality In People With COPD?

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This means that it slows down the various functions of the body. One of the risks of heavy drinking is sleep apnea, where a person’s upper airway collapses or becomes obstructed.

Sleep apnea can present a larger problem for people with COPD, who already struggle with lung health and breathing-related issues. People who drink heavily are 25 percent more likely to experience an episode of apnea while asleep.

Additionally, although alcohol is initially relaxing for many, this substance has been shown to reduce a person’s quality of sleep. Loss of sleep can contribute to a lowered immune system, which can increase the chance and frequency of a COPD flare-up.

What About COPD And Allergic Reactions To Alcohol?

People who suffer from COPD often battle many types of allergies. Having any type of allergic reaction can trigger a flare-up of COPD, which could include symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Many people don’t realize they have allergies or sensitivities to alcohol. When a person flushes, becomes itchy, or gets a stuffy nose after drinking, it’s a sign their body may be sensitive to alcohol. These reactions are most common among women, and seem to be triggered most often by red or white wine.

Additionally, many alcoholic drinks have ingredients like gluten, which can trigger an allergic response for some. When people drink heavily or frequently, they may experience more severe allergic reactions to alcohol. This can increase the amount and frequency of COPD symptoms.

Can Alcoholism Lead To COPD?

No. While alcohol can complicate issues of COPD, alcohol use doesn’t cause this condition. Instead, there are certain risk factors and markers that make a person more likely to develop COPD.

Symptoms of COPD are most common among the following populations:

  • females
  • people who are ages 65 and up
  • people of American Indian, Alaska Native, or multiracial non-Hispanic descent
  • those who are retired or unable to work
  • divorced, widowed, or separated individuals
  • those who experience frequent respiratory infections
  • people who have been exposed to air pollutants
  • current or former smokers
  • those who have certain genetic factors
  • people with a history of asthma

Those who suffer from COPD are also at an increased risk for social isolation, depression, and other mental health conditions. Many people who struggle with these co-occurring mental health conditions may turn to alcohol as a way to relieve their emotional pain or anxieties.

Unfortunately, this can lead some people down a path of alcohol dependence. Many people who start drinking are unable to stop on their own. Thankfully, effective treatment is available for those with alcohol addiction, as well as any co-occurring physical or mental health concern.

Getting Help With Alcoholism And COPD

If you or someone you love is suffering from symptoms of COPD and alcoholism, it can be difficult to know where to turn. Which condition is more serious? How do you find comprehensive care to treat the whole person?

Vertava Health is here to support and guide your family through the recovery process. Our treatment representatives are available to help answer these questions, and empower your loved one to get the help they deserve.

At locations throughout the U.S., Vertava Health provide alcohol rehab programs with personalized treatment plans. This means that every patient is assessed and provided a treatment plan to fit their unique needs. For people with COPD, this may include medical monitoring and medication-assisted treatment.

Additional treatment services include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), family counseling, group therapy, emotional wellness education, and stress management techniques. For those who suffer from COPD-related depression, our compassionate staff provide mental health counseling and group therapy support.

To learn more about alcoholism and COPD, reach out to one of our treatment specialists today.