Alcohol use affects bone health and healing in a variety of ways. Ceasing alcohol use can boost your overall bone health.

Article at a Glance:

Important points to remember about how alcohol affects bone health and healing include:

Drinking too much alcohol can harm bone development, health and healing

Alcohol has many different effects on bones, including disrupting hormone production and regulation and vitamin absorption

Alcohol use can cause direct harm to bones, including weakening and breakage

Alcohol use can impede new bone growth and raise your risk of osteoporosis

Ceasing alcohol use can help you boost your bone health

Treatment for alcohol abuse can be effective

Alcohol and Bone Healing

Alcohol can greatly affect bone health and healing. Alcohol abuse can impact every part of your body, including bones. Bone is living matter, and can both grow and be damaged like any other body part.

When you drink too much alcohol, it can:

  • Make bones weaker
  • Stop bones from healing
  • Cause direct damage to bones, including breakage from falls
  • Affect hormone production
  • Impair vitamin absorption
  • Affect bone development
  • Raise your risk of osteoporosis

Effects of Alcohol on Bones

Heavy alcohol use (more than one drink a day for a woman and more than two drinks a day for a man) can cause problems with bones in a few different ways. Alcohol use can affect cortisol production, other hormone production and vitamin absorption.

Impaired Hormone Regulation and Production

Excessive alcohol intake can:

  • Increase cortisol production: Alcohol can raise the amount of a hormone in the body called cortisol. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone in your body. It can have many harmful actions in the body, and one of them is that it can harm the bones. It can both cause the bones to break down and stop them from healing quickly.
  • Harms the production of testosterone and estrogen: A hormone called the growth hormone is important to bone health and can be harmed through heavy alcohol use. Also, in men, alcohol can harm the making of testosterone. Testosterone has many roles in men, and one of them is to help bone growth. Women can have hormone problems from alcohol use too. In women, alcohol can harm the making of estrogen. Much like testosterone, estrogen also helps bone growth. So when alcohol harms the body’s making of these hormones, bone growth can suffer.

Impaired Vitamin Absorption

Alcohol can also cause problems with your bones getting the vitamins they need to stay healthy. These vitamins include calcium and vitamin D. Even if you take a daily vitamin, your body may not be able to use and process these vitamins as well if you are using alcohol heavily. With heavy alcohol use, your bones are not getting the building blocks they need to grow.

Direct Bone Damage

Besides having an impact on vitamins and hormones that bones need, alcohol can have an impact on the bones themselves.  Studies have shown that alcohol can harm the bones directly. It does this by harming the cells in bone which make new bones grow.

Alcohol use can also cause falls, which can break bones. This is true whether or not you struggle with heavy alcohol use. When someone is drunk, their balance and gait are not as good as normal. Falling can cause injury or bone fracture, and spine and hip fracture are more common in people who struggle with alcohol abuse.

Because the bones do not heal as well in people with heavy alcohol use, it can take much longer to get better from a severe injury.

Alcohol and Bone Development and Deterioration

Alcohol use can also cause bone weakening and breakage.

Impaired Bone Development

You tend to develop more bone when they are younger. Doctors typically tell young people to get enough calcium in their diet. The more bone you have when you are younger, the more healthy your bones are likely to be when you get older. People start to lose bone mass as they get older, which happens even if they do not struggle with heavy alcohol use. However, heavy alcohol use can speed up and worsen the process of bone deterioration.

Heavy drinking can prevent bones from being formed when someone is young. Younger people who have heavy alcohol use do not make as much bone as those who do not. Studies have shown that heavy alcohol use means that older people also lose more bone more quickly than people who do not drink alcohol. Regardless of what age you are, alcohol can harm your bones.

Osteoporosis Risk

Heavy alcohol use is known to put you at high risk of developing osteoporosis. When bones become less dense, you may develop osteoporosis. This disease has no symptoms, but your bones become less dense and more fragile. If you fall, you can break a bone more easily than normal. Your doctor can run a painless test called a bone mineral density test (also known as a BMD test) that can tell if you have this disease or are at risk for it.

When you stop drinking alcohol, your bones can get a bit healthier. One of the best ways to keep your bones healthy is to seek help in stopping alcohol use. The Recovery Village offers alcohol rehab and comprehensive treatment programs to help you or a loved one overcome alcohol addiction.

Have more questions about alcohol or its effects on the body? Interested in different alcohol-related topics? The Recovery Village can answer your questions and help you learn more about problematic alcohol use.

If you or a loved one struggle with alcohol addiction, trained professionals at The Recovery Village can help. The Recovery Village offers many different addiction treatment options to help you overcome addiction. Reach out to ustoday for more information.

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Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.What People Recovering from Alcoholism Need to Know About Osteoporosis“>What Peo[…] Osteoporosis.” Published in April 2016. Accessed March 10, 2019.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.Alcohol and Other Factors Affecting Osteoporosis Risk in Women“>Alcohol […]Risk in Women.” Published in 2003. Accessed March 10, 2019.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.Alcohol’s Harmful Effects on Bone“>Alcohol�[…]fects on Bone.” Published in 1998. Accessed March 10, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

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.