Prednisone And Alcohol: How Do They Interact?

Many people take pleasure in alcohol and they, in fact, consider it a part of their lives. However, you might find it interesting to know that alcohol can affect the way some medications work in the body.

Even common over-the-counter medications like Paracetamol and Metronizadole (Flagyl) are affected by alcohol, so before you take a shot, be sure it is safe to do so. In this article, we will consider the drug prednisone and how alcohol affects its function in the body.

What Is Prednisone?

Chemical Structure of Prednisone

Prednisone is a synthetic hormone, that is, it is formulated in the laboratory to mimic and enhance the action of a natural hormone in the body called glucocorticoid. Glucocorticoids belong to a class of hormones known as corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are steroid hormones.

Glucocorticoids, among other functions, act to prevent inflammation in the body which is mainly a function of our immune system. In the same vein, synthetic glucocorticoid drugs such as prednisone act to resolve inflammation and suppress the immune system.

Other medications that belong to the same class as prednisone include Beclomethasone, Betamethasone, Budesonide, Cortisone, Dexamethasone, Hydrocortisone, Methylprednisolone, Prednisolone, and Triamcinolone.

Can You Drink Alcohol While Using Prednisone?

Can I Use Alcohol and Prednisone

While it is believed that you can have one to two glasses of alcohol per day while taking prednisone, it is always a wise choice to inform your doctor or pharmacist of all substances you are taking, including alcohol or tobacco so they can advise you on possible interactions.

Taking prednisone alongside alcohol can pose some risks to your health. So if you are on prednisone, here are 5 effects you should consider before deciding to take some shots:

1. Suppression Of The Immune System

Weak Immune System From Alcohol and Prednisone Use

Prolonged therapy with high doses of prednisone can suppress the immune system. This means it affects the ability of body soldiers to fight infections.

Incidentally, alcohol does the same thing to your immune system, thus, taking both prednisone and alcohol could put your body at risk of infections that your body could have fought.

2. Increased Likelihood of Causing Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes Caused by Alcohol and Prednisone

Glucocorticoids promote the production of glucose in the liver and also prevent the breakdown of glucose by making cells less sensitive to insulin, the hormone that breaks down glucose for energy.

This results in an accumulation of glucose in the blood and a rise in blood sugar levels.

The abnormal increase in blood glucose associated with the use of glucocorticoids is termed Steroid-induced diabetes mellitus. Alcohol also increases blood sugar levels, hence, drinking alcohol while using prednisone can result in an exacerbated increase in blood sugar levels.

3. Aggravation of Peptic Ulcers

Peptic Ulcer from Alcohol and Prednisone Use

Alcohol consumption has been linked with peptic ulcer in a dose-dependent manner. This means that the more alcohol you consume, the more prone you are to peptic ulcer.

Prednisone therapy is also associated with a great risk of peptic ulceration. Drinking alcohol while taking prednisone can greatly increase the risk of peptic ulcer.

4. Psychiatric Disorders

Smileys Depicting Varying Emotions From Alcohol and Prednisone Use

Corticosteroid therapy (remember glucocorticoids are a type of corticosteroids) has been shown to be associated with symptoms of depression, and other psychotic effects. Meanwhile, alcohol is also associated with depression.

This study suggests that increasing involvement with alcohol increases the risk of depression. Using both concomitantly would greatly increase the risk of developing a major depressive disorder.

5. Increased Risk of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis Caused by Alcohol and Prednisone Use

The ability of corticosteroids to decrease inflammation is a well-proven fact, however, they are also implicated in decreasing the formation of new bone mass while increasing the breakdown of old bone. They do this by decreasing the absorption of calcium and Vitamin D from food or supplements.

Calcium and vitamin D are important in the formation of bones, hence, decreased absorption can lead to weak bones, a condition known as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is one of the causes of a stress fracture in the foot.

Similarly, alcohol is a natural enemy of calcium. It affects the liver, in a way that decreases the uptake and the availability of calcium in the body thereby leading to osteoporosis. It also affects the levels of certain hormones and some of these hormones have an effect on bone formation.

Oestrogen and Testosterone Affected by Alcohol and Prednisone

For example, in men, increased alcohol consumption reduces the production of the hormone testosterone. This hormone is linked to the production of osteoblasts (cells that stimulate bone formation).

Women are not left out too. Excessive alcohol consumption in women exposes them to irregular menstrual cycles causing a fluctuation in estrogen levels and inadvertently increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Estrogen is one of the main female hormones, responsible for puberty, menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and bone formation.

Needless to say, a combination of prednisone and alcohol in the body poses a great risk of osteoporosis.

Uses And Dosage Of Prednisone

Prednisone Tablets in a Bottle

Prednisone is used in the treatment and management of a wide array of conditions as highlighted below:

  • Resolution of inflammation
  • Treatment of some allergic reactions
  • Suppression of the immune system
  • Treatment of bone marrow conditions
  • Alleviation of asthma symptoms.
  • Treatment of endocrine disorders
  • Treatment of kidney conditions
  • Palliative management of certain kinds of cancers
  • Management of certain blood disorders
  • Management of rheumatic disorders.

Prednisone comes packaged as tablets, capsules, and oral solutions. The appropriate dose of prednisone is dependent on the severity of the condition being treated and how the patient is responding to the treatment.

This dose ranges from 5mg to 60mg of Prednisone daily in divided doses.

Side Effects Of Prednisone

Side Effect of Prednisone

Here are some important side effects of Prednisone to note:

  1.  Prednisone can have damaging effects on the digestive tract, leading to a peptic ulcer. It is therefore advisable to take prednisone after a full meal to minimize this effect.
  2.  You can gain weight while taking prednisone. This is because it could prevent you from feeling full, making you eat more than you normally would. To avoid unwanted weight gain, make sure you eat just about the quantity you eat normally.
  3.  Prednisone can affect your ability to sleep. It is advisable to avoid caffeine while on prednisone because caffeine also affects your ability to sleep, hence a combination can worsen sleep problems.

You Still Get To Make The Choice

To Drink Alcohol While Using Prednisone or not

In a nutshell, when you take alcohol and prednisone together, you inadvertently suppress your ability to fight infections, increase your chances of developing a peptic ulcer, type 2 diabetes and depression, and put yourself at risk of weakened bones. A wise choice would be to pause alcohol intake until you complete your prednisone dosage.

In case you are a chronic alcohol user and your prednisone prescription will last for a long time, the above facts might just be enough reasons to reconsider your alcohol use for your health. It is just safer to avoid trouble.

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Grace Adejuwon, B.Pharm

Grace Adejuwon joined 25 Doctors in 2019. She has a bachelor's degree in Pharmacy from the Obafemi Awolowo University with many years experience in pharmaceutical care, logistics and pharmacy business management. She is also the lead pharmacist at Synapse Services Ltd, a community pharmacy. An ardent lover of nature, she delights in spending time within the pages of books. She uses her love for welding words together to educate people, especially about drugs.
Grace Adejuwon, B.Pharm

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