Though prednisone can offer health benefits when used as directed to treat medical problems, when combined with alcohol, a person may be at risk of experiencing serious health risks. The two, used in combination, can weaken a person’s immune system, put them at a greater risk for osteoporosis and contribute to other health problems.
Individuals who are taking prednisone long-term for chronic conditions may experience more risks and dangers from this combination. However, any person who is taking this medication and is considering drinking, even in moderate amounts, should speak to their doctor prior to consuming alcohol. Even sporadic episodes of alcohol abuse, like binge drinking, could potentially cause problems for a person who is taking prednisone.
What Is Prednisone?
Prednisone is a steroid medication, or corticosteroid, that comes in a tablet, liquid solution or concentrated oral solution. Brand names of prednisone include, but are not limited to, Prednisone Intensol, Sterapred and Sterapred DS.
Prednisone helps to fight inflammation (as an anti-inflammatory drug) and symptoms of allergic reactions, such as itching, redness, and swelling. It also suppresses the immune system, making it a treatment for certain autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Prednisone may also be prescribed to people who have low levels of naturally occurring steroids in their body.
Because of these broad applications, prednisone is used to treat a wide variety of health problems. Examples of conditions treated with prednisone include:
- adrenal problems
- blood or bone marrow conditions
- endocrine problems
- kidney conditions
- multiple sclerosis
- serious allergic reactions
- skin problems
- symptoms of certain cancers
- ulcerative colitis
Alcohol abuse and addiction can cause a person to ignore important habits of self-care, which are critical to managing chronic illnesses like these.
On their own, each of these drugs has side effects and risks. Using them together can stress a person’s body even more, and, in certain cases, this could result in a serious health problem developing.
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Side Effects And Risks Of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse ranges from sporadic patterns of binge drinking to the frequent episodes of heavy drinking that accompany alcoholism. While any form of alcohol abuse endangers a person, chronic levels of consumption are even more dangerous.
Possible short-term side effects of drinking include blurred vision, dizziness, poor balance, trouble speaking, trouble walking and throwing up.
Risks and dangers of an alcohol use disorder include:
- cardiac (heart) problems
- gastrointestinal problems
- high blood pressure
- increased risk of cancer
- liver problems
- weakened immune system
Certain health problems, such as cardiac dangers, can happen from a single night of heavy binge drinking or after prolonged use. Long-term drinking increases the odds that a person could develop these or other serious alcohol-related health problems.
Side Effects And Risks Of Prednisone
Prednisone can help a person more successfully manage their chronic health condition, however, this medication can cause a variety of side effects ranging from mild to severe, including:
- bulging eyes
- extreme mood shifts
- gastrointestinal problems
- personality changes
- intense tiredness
- muscle weakness
- weight gain
- loss of contact with reality
- shortness of breath
- signs of infection
- swelling of the face, arms, hands, feet or lower legs
- trouble breathing
- uncontrollable shaking of the hands
- vision problems
When combined with alcohol, it is possible that certain side effects or risks of either prednisone or alcohol abuse are worsened.
The Risks And Dangers Of Combining Alcohol And Prednisone
Both prednisone use and alcohol abuse have been linked to an increased risk of certain health problems. While using these substances alone or together doesn’t guarantee that a person will experience these or other problems, the risk could rise.
Abusing alcohol while on prednisone may increase the likelihood that a person will struggle with the following conditions:
Increased Depression: Depression is linked to alcohol abuse and prednisone. If a person develops depression from one substance, the depression may become more severe from the addition of the second.
Complications To Illnesses Treated By Prednisone: While moderate levels of drinking may not cause health problems in a healthy person, for a person with a chronic illness who takes medication, alcohol consumption could be problematic. These risks could climb if a person abuses alcohol, especially to the point of addiction.
Many of the health problems prednisone treats can be complicated by alcohol abuse. In certain cases, this may be because of the way alcohol interacts with other medications a person may be taking for their condition. These conditions include cancer, kidney problems, lupus, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and many others.
Diabetes Risk: Long-term steroid use has been linked to heightened blood sugar levels and a risk of steroid-induced diabetes.
Alcohol abuse can cause blood sugar levels to be unstable. It is also a risk factor for steroid-induced type 2 diabetes. Drinking while on this medication could possibly trigger blood sugar problems, including the risk or complications associated with diabetes.
Gastrointestinal Problems: Both prednisone and alcohol increase the risk of GI bleeding. Using these drugs together could increase this risk.
Further, stomach upset and indigestion may be caused by both, individually, and exacerbated when used together. Additionally, the irritation to the digestive tract that results from both is linked to peptic ulcers, a risk which may increase, should a person combine both substances.
Risk Of Osteoporosis: Prednisone use may carry an increased risk of osteoporosis. Alcohol abuse can drastically impact bone health. Excessive and chronic alcohol abuse has also been linked to a higher risk of osteoporosis. Consuming alcohol with prednisone may make a person more vulnerable to this risk.
Weakened Immune System: Both alcohol and steroids suppress the immune system, causing it to function less than optimally. Combining the two could make this effect more severe.
While immune system suppression may be the desired effect of prednisone for people with autoimmune diseases, if the immune system is too impaired, a person may be more vulnerable to sickness and disease.
On top of these risks, using alcohol could lead a person to forget to take their medication or follow through on other aspects of self-care which help to manage their health problems.
Alcohol Abuse May Cause A Person To Skip Or Stop Prednisone
The effects of alcohol abuse and addiction can make it difficult for a person to stick to their medication regime. Even occasional alcohol abuse may cause a person to skip a dose, however, people struggling with an alcohol addiction may skip doses more frequently.
On the other hand, certain people who wish to drink may purposely skip a dose of prednisone or stop taking it altogether. If a person suddenly stops taking this medication, their body may react harshly.
At this point, a person’s body could malfunction due to an absence of naturally occurring steroids. Some people may even experience withdrawal symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, these could include:
- body aches
- intense fatigue
- joint pain
- loss of appetite
Alcohol can cause a person’s mood to go up and down. In the case of depression, when a person’s sense of self-worth is low, they may not take care of themselves the way they should. This too can lead a person to not to take their medication, either because they’ve stopped caring or because they’ve forgotten.
If alcohol abuse is impairing a person’s ability to take care of themselves or placing them at risk of damage to their body or mind, it’s time to get help.
The best treatment programs teach a person how to take care of themselves, even in the face of chronic illness. By learning personalized coping skills and healing through therapy sessions, a person is better equipped to overcome the unique challenges of their life.
Inpatient programs are generally better for individuals who are confronting serious challenges within their life (like chronic health problems) alongside addiction.
Contact Vertava Health today for more information on alcohol abuse and treatment options.