Prednisone and Alcohol Interactions: Can You Drink on Prednisone?

If you are in need of a powerful anti-inflammatory medication, there is a chance that your doctor will prescribe prednisone to you.

alcohol tablets

If you are not used to taking prednisone, you may have a number of questions about it, including whether it is safe to drink alcohol while you are on it.

In this article, we will talk about what prednisone is and why it is described, its possible side effects, and interactions which may occur if you mix it with alcohol.

That way you can stay safe while you are on this medication. Let’s begin.

What is Prednisone?

Prednisone is a corticosteroid. By suppressing the immune system, it can reduce inflammation.

KEY POINT: Prednisone is classified as a corticosteroid, and is used to fight inflammation.

​What is Prednisone Prescribed For?

Prednisone may prescribed for a wide range of conditions. These include:

  • Acute injury
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Blood disorders
  • Immune system disorders
  • Eye issues
  • Breathing issues
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • MS
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Skin problems

How long you need to take prednisone for depends on the condition which you are treating.

KEY POINT: Your doctor may prescribe prednisone to you for a variety of different health conditions.

Do Prednisone and Alcohol Interact?

Yes, prednisone and alcohol are known to interact with one another.

man with pills and alcohol

You already know that prednisone has the effect of suppressing your immune system.

As it turns out, alcohol does the same thing.

Additionally, both prednisone and alcohol can affect the levels of glucose in your blood.

So these are both mechanisms through which the two substances may interact.

Are these interactions dangerous?

That depends.

In some cases, the answer is no, particularly if you have not been prescribed a high dosage of prednisone, or you are taking it over a short-term basis.

In other situations, it is best to avoid drinking alcohol when you are taking prednisone.

KEY POINT: Because both prednisone and alcohol suppress the immune system and alter blood sugar levels, they can interact. 

Whether or not this is a problem that you need to alter your habits to avoid depends on your dosage of prednisone and how long you are taking it.

Certain health conditions may also have an effect, and need to be taken into account as well.

​What Happens If You Mix Prednisone and Alcohol?

If you do inappropriately imbibe alcohol while you are using prednisone, the following issues could potentially occur:

  • If drinking alcohol while on prednisone results in your immune response being suppressed too much, you may be more prone to infections. It may also be more difficult for your body to fight these infections.
  • It is also possible to raise your blood sugar levels too high when combining alcohol with prednisone. This effect becomes more likely for those who take prednisone for an extended time period. Patients with type II diabetes may be more prone to it. The effect on such patients may also be more dangerous. If you are pre-diabetic, this is also an effect you want to avoid as it makes it more likely that your pre-diabetes will become actual diabetes.
  • Sometimes, drinking alcohol while you are taking prednisone may also lead to an upset stomach. It is even possible for peptic ulcers to develop as a result of combining the two.
  • At risk for osteoporosis? You will want to take extra care to avoid mixing alcohol with prednisone, particularly over an extended timeframe. Doing this may thin out your bones, increasing their fragility. This could bring on osteoporosis more rapidly, or increase the likelihood of bone fractures.

KEY POINT: If you drink alcohol while you are on prednisone, there are a number of health problems which may occur or worsen. 

These include pre-diabetes, type II diabetes, osteoporosis and bone fractures, upset stomach, and ulcers.

Your immune system may also not perform to its fullest, which could lead to more frequent infections or infections which are harder to get rid of. 

Again, whether you need to worry about any of this or not depends on your existing health conditions and how much prednisone you are taking over how long a time period.

​What Else Can Prednisone Interact With?

Along with alcohol, prednisone may interact with a number of other types of medications.

woman holding prednisone pills

Some of these include:

  • Blood thinners
  • Some antifungal medications
  • Aspirin
  • Emend, a nausea medication
  • Heartburn medications
  • Medications for seizures
  • Drugs in the immunosuppressant class
  • Some antibiotics
  • Corticosteroids
  • Contraceptives
  • Diuretics
  • HIV medications
  • Medications which fight anxiety or depression
  • St. John’s Wort or herbs which act in a similar way upon the body
  • Heart medications
  • The asthma drug zafirlukast
  • Tobacco

Take note that wile the list above should help you to steer clear of common prednisone interactions, it is not an exhaustive list.

When your doctor talks about prescribing prednisone to you, you need to disclose all drugs and supplements you are using and all health conditions you have.

That way your doctor can help you to stay safe.

KEY POINT: Prednisone can interact with a number of medications and supplements.

If you use any of these, tell your doctor about it before starting prednisone.

What About Prednisone and Grapefruit?

Prednisone also shows up on lists of medications which one should avoid mixing with grapefruits or grapefruit juice.

According to the Pharmacy Times (1),

“Problems caused by interactions between certain prescription medications and grapefruit juice have gotten a great deal of media attention lately, and some of this coverage has caused people to mistakenly assume that grapefruit juice should be avoided with any medication. In reality, the problems with grapefruit juice actually affect very few patients.”

Indeed, in a table on that page, prednisone is listed under the column for “small or negligible” effects resulting from eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice.

So you are probably safe eating grapefruit and taking prednisone, but double-checking with your doctor is a smart move.

KEY POINTIt is believed that grapefruit may interact with prednisone. 

While the effects appear to be small, you should still ask your doctor about it.

​What About Common Side Effects of Prednisone?

Whether you do decide to drink alcohol while using prednisone or you decide to abstain, it is important to be aware of the common side effects which may occur when using this medication.

dizzy woman on bed

Some common side effects of prednisone may include:

  • Mood changes
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Less urine than usual
  • Changes in heartbeat
  • Breathing which is loud or has a “rattling” quality to it
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tingling or numbness in the legs or arms
  • Swollen lower legs or extremities
  • Pounding in the ears
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Issues with walking or speaking
  • Weight gain

Mayo Clinic (2) also reports quite a few other possible side effects. There is not enough data on these side effects to determine how common or rare they are.

Some of these include backache, diarrhea, pain or tearing in the eyes, darkening skin, decreased appetite, sleep problems, muscle pain and more. You can read the full list at the link above.

There are also some "adjustment phase" side effects which may occur when you first start using prednisone.

The most common among these appears to be an increase in appetite. Visit the link for a full list of the others.

KEY POINT: There are many common and uncommon side effects of prednisone. 

Familiarizing yourself with these possible side effects can help you to keep track of how your body is responding to prednisone, with or without alcohol.

You can ask your doctor more about what you can expect given your particular medications and health conditions.

​How to Avoid Mixing Prednisone and Alcohol

Pills and alcohol

According to this data sheet (3),

“The preconversion biological half-life of prednisone is about 60 minutes. Prednisolone is excreted in the urine as free and conjugated metabolites together with an appreciable proportion of unchanged prednisolone. Prednisolone has a usual plasma half-life of 2 to 4 hours.”

ALS Therapy Alliance (4) states,

“Relying on the theoretical data, Prednisone will leave your system in 12-18 hours completely. Documented data, however, is not always correct, both Prednisone and Prednisolone (the metabolic form of Prednisone) may take up to 24 hours to leave your system completely. Aged people and children may exhibit differences in the time required for Prednisone to leave their system. ”

So if you are taking prednisone temporarily and do not want to mix it with alcohol, your best bet is to wait for the drug to clear your system before you have a drink.

To be on the safe side, wait for at least 24 hours to pass after your last dose of prednisone before you drink alcohol.

What if you haven’t started prednisone yet, but recently had a drink?

If you want to avoid mixing the two, you will want to wait for the alcohol to clear your bloodstream before you take your first prednisone dose.

The Recovery Village (5) states that how long alcohol remains in your system depends,

“on the form of alcohol testing, the type of alcohol consumed, and the rate of metabolism. Typically, it can stay in the urine for up to 80 hours, in hair follicles for up to three months, and in the blood for up to 24 hours.”

So if you do not want to risk prednisone and alcohol mixing it all, wait at least 24 hours after your last drink before you take your first prednisone dose.

KEY POINT: If your goal is to avoid mixing prednisone and alcohol, you need to time your first dose sufficiently in order to make sure that there is no alcohol remaining in your body from your last drink. 

This means waiting around 24 hours.

You also need to make sure that you wait long enough after your last dosage to keep the two from mixing.

That likewise entails waiting around 24 hours after your final prednisone dose before you drink alcohol again.

​Tips Using Prednisone Safely and Effectively

Now that we have talked in detail about prednisone and alcohol, let's go over some general tips to make sure that you stay safe while you are using this potent medication.

  • Safe prednisone use starts with safe prednisone prescription. That is only possible if you fully disclose all drugs and supplements you are using (legal and otherwise) to your doctor along with all known or suspected health conditions.
  • Ask any questions you have or share any doubts that are bothering you with your doctor before you leave your appointment. Make sure that you are clear on all instructions for using the medication and what to expect in terms of side effects.
  • Take the appropriate dosage which you have been prescribed. As an adult, that could be anywhere from 5-80mg each day.
  • If you experience any troubling side effects, contact your provider immediately for instructions.
  • If mixing alcohol and prednisone would be dangerous for you, do not do so.
  • Continue to eat a healthy, nutritious diet, and drink plenty of water while you are using prednisone.
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult with your doctor before use.
  • Do not use leftover prednisone "as needed" the way you would an NSAID. This is a really strong medication, and it is not intended to be used in this way. Doing so could lead to unpredictable outcomes.

KEY POINT: Staying safe while using prednisone requires that you follow your doctor's instructions to the letter, and that you are communicative about your health conditions, other medications and supplements you are using, and side effects you experience.

​Conclusion: You Should Confer With Your Doctor to Decide Whether or Not to Use Alcohol While Taking Prednisone

Ultimately, a website cannot give you medical advice; only a professional who knows you can do that.

Because there are so many different factors which can impact the way your body reacts to prednisone as well as alcohol, it is very important to sit down with your doctor and discuss the matter in-depth before making any decisions.

If you fully disclose your health conditions and medications to your doctor, and he or she says it's all right to use prednisone and alcohol together, you should feel safe to do so in moderation.

If your doctor tells you to avoid alcohol while you are on prednisone, it is vital that you follow those instructions without deviation.

Good luck taking prednisone, whether it is for the short or long term. Hopefully it will make a positive difference in how you feel and function.

Even if you do have to give up alcohol for some period of time, taking the best possible care of your health is worth it.

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  • Updated March 21, 2019

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