Alcohol can thin blood and interact with blood thinners like warfarin, so the safest option is to limit or avoid alcohol altogether when taking anticoagulant medications.
Alcohol and blood thinners can have similar effects on your blood platelets and can interact with one another, so it’s important to discuss your alcohol use with your physician if they’re going to prescribe one of these drugs to you.
Article at a Glance:
Blood thinners are medications used to prevent and treat blood clots.
Alcohol can thin your blood or enhance the effects of blood thinners.
Thin blood is only beneficial for people with certain conditions and can be dangerous if it becomes too thin.
Only your doctor can tell you if it is safe for you to mix alcohol and blood thinners.
The safest option is to avoid using alcohol while taking blood thinners.
Is Alcohol a Blood Thinner?
Yes, alcohol can act as a blood thinner to an extent, which is why it can have a negative effect when too much is consumed with blood thinner medications. However, it doesn’t thin blood enough to successfully combat blood clots the way medicine would, so it cannot be used to treat blood clots.
Some unhealthy habits like smoking can thicken the blood, while drinking can thin the blood by interfering with the production and function of blood platelets (the cells that create blood clots to protect your vascular system). This interference can lower platelet numbers and have serious consequences, like increasing the risk of bleeding and stroke.
Beyond your blood platelets, abusing alcohol can significantly harm your health, including liver damage, high blood pressure, nerve damage and depression. In a study by The Recovery Village, heavy drinkers were also 73% more likely to experience a seizure and 48% more likely to have cancer than light or moderate drinkers.
Mixing Alcohol and Blood Thinners
Alcohol can interact with blood thinners like warfarin and aspirin, potentially enhancing their effects. While the interactions between blood thinners and alcohol aren’t fully understood, most medical professionals agree that limiting or avoiding alcohol altogether when taking anticoagulant medications is the safest option.
Understand the Risks
Blood thinners can be a life-saving class of drugs for those who truly need them, but they do have risks, and so carefully read all warning labels related to alcohol and blood thinners if you’re taking them.
Some medical professionals believe drinking one to two drinks per day may be okay in terms of alcohol and blood thinners for healthy people, but anything more could be risky. However, people who use blood thinners regularly for a health condition or have a bleeding disorder may be at an increased risk of excessive bleeding in general and should avoid alcohol. Excessive bleeding can lead to the need for emergency care.
The risks of combining alcohol and blood thinners are even more dangerous if you also take another medication or substance that also interacts with blood thinners, including:
- Anticonvulsants (for epilepsy)
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
- Foods rich in vitamin K
- Cranberry juice
Consult Your Physician
Always consult your physician before drinking alcohol if you are currently taking blood thinners. Your physician can help you understand your personal risk around alcohol. Even if most people can combine a small amount of alcohol and blood thinners, you might have unique circumstances that would prevent you from doing so safely.
If you struggle with controlling your alcohol use, disclose this to your physician before they prescribe a blood thinner. They can provide you with other options and work with you to address your drinking before you start taking blood thinners.
What Are Blood Thinners?
Blood thinners are medicines that help prevent the formation of blood clots. For people who already have blood clots, they help prevent them from growing larger and help them to be absorbed faster. When you have a blood clot, it can lead to strokes, heart attacks, impaired circulation in the lungs, and other complications resulting from the blockage.
People normally take blood thinners when they have conditions that increase their risk of blood clots developing or conditions that increase the damage a blood clot would potentially cause. This could include atrial fibrillation, a heart valve replacement, congenital heart defects and many other conditions.
Types of Blood Thinners
There are two primary types of blood thinners, which include anticoagulants and antiplatelet medicines. Anticoagulants slow your body’s making of clots, while antiplatelet medicines help prevent platelets from clumping and creating a clot. Anticoagulants include warfarin and heparin, while antiplatelets include aspirin.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Blood Thinners.” Medline Plus, July 8, 2021. Accessed August 13, 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease.” Accessed August 13, 2021.
Ballard, Harold. “The Hematological Complications of Alcoholism.” Alcohol Health & Research World, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1997. Accessed August 13, 2021.
Freeman, Andrew. “Anticoagulants and Drug-Food Interactions.” National Jewish Health, January 2013. Accessed August 13, 2021.
National Health Service. “Considerations: Anticoagulant medicines.” May 31, 2018. Accessed August 13, 2021.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.