There are millions of people in the U.S. impacted by diabetes and also by alcoholism, and there are links between the two chronic diseases. A frequent question when it comes to alcohol is the link of alcoholism with diabetes and whether or not alcoholism leads to diabetes.

can alcoholism lead to diabetes

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition where the pancreas doesn’t produce an adequate amount of insulin, or the insulin doesn’t function as it should. Insulin is a hormone that transfers glucose from the blood to the cells where it can then be turned into energy. With diabetes, glucose builds up in your blood and doesn’t go to your cells. There are two kinds of diabetes which are Type 1 and Type 2.

types of diabetes

  • Type 1 Diabetes:

    The development of Type 1 diabetes is usually the result of genetics, or the body having an autoimmune response. Most people with Type 1 diabetes are diagnosed when they’re younger, and there’s no way to prevent it.

  • Type 2 Diabetes:

    Type 2 happens when the body makes insulin but it’s not enough, or a person’s body eventually becomes insulin-resistant. It can be somewhat attributed to genetic factors, but it’s also more common in people who are overweight and not physically active. Usually, this diagnosis comes when a person is older than 40, but as obesity has become such a big problem in developed countries, cases of Type 2 diabetes in younger people are on the rise.

Type 2 diabetes progresses over the years, while Type 1 diabetes usually becomes obvious very quickly and symptoms dissipate quickly once a person receives treatment.

Does Alcoholism Lead to Diabetes?

There are ways alcoholism can contribute to the development not of Type 1 diabetes, but of Type 2.

3 ways alcoholism is linked to diabetes

When you drink large amounts of alcohol, it can make your body less sensitive to insulin, which is a trigger for Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is also frequently a side effect of pancreatitis, which is primarily caused by excessive drinking.

Another way alcoholism leads to diabetes is the fact that alcohol has a lot of sugar and calories, so the more you drink, the more likely you are to become overweight, which is a contributing reason for Type 2 diabetes. Also, when you suffer from alcoholism, you’re more likely to have a generally unhealthy lifestyle, such as not getting enough exercise, which can increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Of course, both people who have a drinking problem and those who don’t can develop diabetes, and alcoholism is just one of the many risk factors.

Is Alcoholism with Diabetes More Harmful?

When someone has diabetes or is pre-diabetic, it’s essential that they take the necessary steps to keep their blood sugar levels in check. If you’re an alcoholic, this becomes significantly more difficult. There are many reasons why alcoholism leads to diabetes in some cases and also why alcoholism with diabetes is a dangerous combination.

While there are some ways you can drink small amounts with diabetes, if you have alcoholism with diabetes it’s important that you seek professional help. The safe drinking limit for someone with diabetes is a maximum of one drink a day for women, and for men, two. If you think you’re drinking beyond this, whether you think you’re an alcoholic or not, you should speak with your doctor.

Want to know more about alcohol & diabetes? See these helpful guides:

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.