Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Arthritis?

It has generally been recommended that adults limit the number of alcoholic drinks to two a day. You, as an arthritis patient, may or may not be able to drink alcohol, depending on what medications you take.

Alcohol and Drug Interactions

There can be serious consequences of mixing certain drugs and alcohol. If you are on methotrexate, you should not be drinking alcohol, unless your doctor allows you a rare special occasion drink. Alcohol can increase the risk of liver toxicity in patients who take methotrexate.

Remember these additional facts about drug and alcohol combinations:

  • If you take Tylenol, you should be cautious about drinking alcohol because of the risk of liver damage that may be fatal.

  • The combination of alcohol and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can increase the risk of developing ulcers.

  • Analgesic medications (painkillers), muscle relaxants, and sleep medications can intensify the effects of alcohol. Avoid alcohol if you use narcotic analgesics or other central nervous system depressants.

Other Unwanted Problems with Alcohol

Alcohol not only can affect your medications and their effectiveness, it can weaken your bones and pack on unwanted pounds. There are other undesirable consequences of alcohol use for an arthritis patient:

  • Chronic and heavy drinking can inhibit the formation of new bone cells, leading to low bone mass.

  • Alcohol consumption can induce sleep problems, harmful for arthritis patients already burdened with chronic fatigue.

  • Alcohol consumption can increase the risk of gouty arthritis.

  • Alcohol increases the permeability of the intestine (e.g., leaky gut syndrome), which some researchers have associated with arthritis.

Alcohol: Not a Coping Mechanism

Though you may look to alcohol as a way of coping with the difficulties of living with arthritis or to make you forget your problems, alcohol can add to your problems. If you have an accident or slip or fall, your arthritis would become more painful from your injuries. When you have arthritis, you must take care of yourself more than ever before, and alcohol does not fit into your plans.

If you are looking to alcohol for help, it may be a sign of depression. Consider seeking treatment for depression or anxiety associated with chronic arthritis.

You shouldn't let alcohol stop you from eating well, exercising, sleeping well, or being compliant with your treatment plan. It is best to avoid alcohol, except for the occasional drink your doctor may allow you on special occasions.

Think about why you are drinking. Are you drinking to diminish your pain? Are you drinking because you feel overwhelmed? Are you drinking because you are angry, frustrated, depressed, or feel hopeless? If the answer is yes, consider consulting with a psychologist who specializes in helping people who live with chronic disease.

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