Prednisone and Alcohol − Can You Drink On Prednisone?

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In the U.S., about 125 million individuals suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases caused by factors such as persistent infections, immune system reactions or genetic mutations.

Prednisone therapy is a common and effective management strategy for many chronic inflammatory conditions. However, it’s crucial to be aware of potential interactions when taking prednisone, particularly regarding alcohol consumption.

Mixing prednisone with alcohol can be dangerous and exacerbate side effects. Continue reading this article to learn more about these risks and how to stay safe while on prednisone therapy.

What is Prednisone?

Prednisone (methylprednisolone) is a potent FDA-approved anti-inflammatory medication classified as a corticosteroid. Corticosteroids mimic the effects of cortisol, a hormone naturally produced by the human adrenal glands. Cortisol is vital in various bodily functions, including regulating inflammation, immune system response and blood sugar levels.

Prednisone’s primary function is to:

  • Reduce inflammation by suppressing the immune system’s inflammatory response
  • Treat autoimmune diseases by suppressing the immune response

Some common uses of prednisone include treating rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, allergic reactions (e.g., hay fever), eczema, psoriasis and asthma, immunosuppressive therapy to prevent organ rejection, hormonal disorders, and certain cancers.

Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Prednisone?

There is minimal research on prednisone-alcohol interactions. Yet, as a general guideline, it’s wise to follow medical advice on not combining medications with alcohol, especially when most of the long-term effects remain unclear.

Here are some factors to consider before mixing alcohol and prednisone:

Increased Risk of Gastrointestinal Irritation

Alcohol consumption disrupts the function of the muscles that prevent heartburn and damage the esophagus’s lining, increasing esophageal cancer risk. A study also reported that alcohol can be “ulcerogenic,” which means that it can induce or exacerbate the formation of ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract.

Also, corticosteroid use increases the risk of adverse GI issues, such as gastritis, gastric ulcer formation, and gastrointestinal bleeding. When combined, prednisone and alcohol effects on the gastrointestinal tract can be additive or synergistic, further increasing the likelihood of adverse GI issues.

Weakened Immune System

Prednisone alone has a potent immunosuppressive effect that helps control health conditions in which the immune system mistakenly attacks its healthy tissues. However, this therapeutic benefit also increases the risks of infections and fractures, particularly in patients receiving glucocorticoids in high doses (40 mg/d or more) or over a long period.

Alcohol disrupts immune pathways, impairing the body’s ability to protect against infection with a greater likelihood of pneumonia, acute respiratory stress syndromes (ARDS), and sepsis. Together, steroids and alcohol further impair the body’s defense mechanisms to fight off infections.

Osteoporosis and Fractures

The risk of fractures increases with long-term or high-dose prednisone use due to its effects on bone metabolism, such as decreased bone density and impaired bone formation. Alcohol can further exacerbate this risk by interfering with bone metabolism and calcium absorption, potentially accelerating bone loss and increasing susceptibility to fractures.


Steroid-induced diabetes is one of the most common and representative side effects of prednisone therapy. Prednisone can increase blood sugar levels by promoting glucose production in the liver, reducing glucose uptake by cells, and interfering with insulin function, leading to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels).

Alcohol can also cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) shortly after consumption, followed by hyperglycemia as the body processes the alcohol. Methylprednisolone and alcohol can have addictive hyperglycemic effects, increasing blood sugar levels fluctuations. Glucocorticoid treatments like prednisone can cause diabetes in people without a prior history of the disease.

Mood Changes

Prednisone is known to cause a range of psychiatric side effects, including mood swings, irritability, anxiety, agitation, insomnia, and even depression or psychosis in susceptible individuals.

Excessive or chronic alcohol consumption can lead to mood disturbances, including depression, anxiety, irritability, and impaired cognitive function. Combining prednisone and alcohol can amplify the risk of mood changes and psychiatric symptoms.

How Long After Taking Prednisone Can You Drink Alcohol?

After taking prednisone, it’s recommended to wait until the treatment course is over before consuming alcohol. Prednisone has a relatively short half-life of about 3-4 hours.

But, for a drug to be fully cleared from your system, it typically requires about 5.5 times its half-life. For prednisone, this equates to 16.5 hours (5.5 times a 3-hour half-life) to 22 hours (5.5 times a 4-hour half-life). This time clearance is significant for prolonged use or higher doses of prednisone.

Prednisone treatment for five days or more should be gradually tapered to reduce withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, irritability, and insomnia. Drinking alcohol during this period can worsen these effects and affect mood regulation. It’s advisable to avoid alcohol until prednisone treatment is completed.

Prednisone Safety Tips

Can I drink on prednisone? shouldn’t be the only concern while on steroid therapy. Here are some safety tips to consider while taking prednisone:

  • Take prednisone as prescribed. Do not increase or decrease the prescribed dosage.
  • To reduce the risk of gastrointestinal irritation, take prednisone with food or milk.
  • Avoid alcohol intake to minimize side effects and interactions.
  • Monitor blood sugar closely and adjust the medication regimen if necessary.
  • Report severe or persistent insomnia, mood swings, or weight gain to your healthcare provider.
  • Ensure an adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D for bone health.
  • Consider wearing a medical alert bracelet for prednisone use.

Can You Drink Alcohol with Prednisone? − Final Considerations

While occasional moderate alcohol consumption may not pose an immediate danger, mixing prednisone with alcohol can amplify side effects, and we advise against doing so. Prednisone’s severe effects include swelling, coughing up blood, irregular heartbeat, and seizures.

Unlike alcohol with Tylenol, which can lead to life-threatening liver failure, prednisone-alcohol risks are less acute. However, there’s concern for potential overdose and addiction, both from prednisone and alcohol. If experiencing signs of addiction or dependence, seek medical help promptly.

People Also Ask

Can you drink on steroids?

There is no safe dose of alcohol and prednisone. It’s advisable to avoid alcohol while taking steroids like prednisone due to the increased risk of adverse effects. Consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Why can’t you drink coffee with prednisone?

Consuming coffee with prednisone may exacerbate its side effects, such as stomach irritation and insomnia. Coffee’s acidity can further irritate the gastrointestinal tract, while caffeine can amplify prednisone’s stimulating-like effects on the central nervous system.

What should I avoid while taking prednisone?

While taking prednisone, it’s advisable to avoid alcohol, caffeine, high-sodium foods, grapefruit or grapefruit juice, and live vaccines. These substances can exacerbate side effects or interfere with medication efficacy.

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Retrieved on May 14, 2024.

Published on: December 10th, 2019

Updated on: May 14th, 2024

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