Can You Drink Alcohol on Steroids? Corticosteroids, Anabolics, Health Risks, Side Effects, Addiction & Treatment
What Are Steroids?
The word has different meanings. Steroids are chemicals, often hormones, that your body makes naturally. They help your organs, tissues, and cells do their jobs. You need a healthy balance of them to grow and even to make babies. “Steroids” can also refer to man-made medicines. The two main types are corticosteroids and anabolic-androgenic steroids (or anabolics for short).
Types of Steroids
Steroids come in many different forms.
The main types are:
- Tablets, syrups, and liquids – such as prednisolone
- Inhalers – such as beclometasone and fluticasone
- Nasal sprays – such as beclometasone and fluticasone
- Injections (given into joints, muscles, or blood vessels) – such as methylprednisolone
- Creams, lotions, and gels – such as hydrocortisone skin cream
Most steroids are only available on prescription, but a few (such as some creams or nasal sprays) can be bought from pharmacies and shops.
Corticosteroids are medicines that quickly fight inflammation in your body. These lab-made steroids work like the hormone cortisol, which your adrenal glands make. Cortisol keeps your immune system from making substances that cause inflammation. Corticosteroid drugs, like prednisone, work similarly. They slow or stop the immune system processes that trigger inflammation.
They help treat conditions that cause irritation and swelling. They can ease symptoms of:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
- Lupus and other autoimmune disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rashes and skin conditions like eczema
Your doctor may also suggest you take them for a short time to treat allergic reactions, like a severe poison ivy rash.
Corticosteroids and Alcohol
If you have an inflammatory condition, you may be wondering if you can drink alcohol while taking a corticosteroid like prednisone. To make a long answer short — probably not.
But it’s also important to note that not all corticosteroids affect your body the same way. They are available in several dosage forms, including oral tablets, topical creams, nasal sprays, and inhalations. We’ll focus on oral dosage forms since they tend to have the broadest effect on your body.
While corticosteroids like prednisone and alcohol may not directly interact with each other, alcohol can have negative effects on the condition being treated, negating the benefits you’re getting from the medication. And as described above, it can also interact with other medications that people normally take for inflammatory conditions.
As discussed, corticosteroids work by suppressing your immune system — and alcohol can have that effect as well. Drinking a lot of alcohol can make it easier for bacteria and other germs to escape your stomach and get into your blood, where they may cause infection. Plus, it can cause certain cells in your immune system to not work as well at fighting infections.
This means that if your immune system is already weaker from taking corticosteroids, drinking heavily puts you at greater risk of getting sick.
Anabolic steroids are man-made versions of testosterone, a male sex hormone that helps build bigger muscles. A doctor can legally prescribe them if your body doesn’t make enough testosterone. An example would be boys with delayed puberty. Doctors also prescribe them to men with low testosterone and people who lose muscle mass because of cancer, AIDS, and other health conditions. Topical creams, patches, and injections are the most common. There is also a version that can be inhaled through your nose.
Their performance- and muscle-boosting powers have led to widespread misuse and abuse. Abusers tend to use extremely high doses. Some take 100 times the dose legally prescribed for health problems.
These steroids can cause bad acne and fluid retention. Long-term use can stop the body from making testosterone. In men, this causes smaller testicles, lower sperm counts, infertility, and breast growth. Women may have male-pattern baldness, facial hair growth, periods that change or stop, and a deeper voice. Teens who use them might stunt their bone growth and height. High doses can lead to extreme mood swings, anger, and aggression called “roid rage.”
Long-term anabolic steroid abuse, especially in high doses, can damage your liver, kidneys, and heart. Severe fluid retention can cause heart swelling and heart failure. These drugs can also raise your LDL “bad” cholesterol, which can make you more likely to have heart attacks and strokes at any age.
Alcohol and Anabolic Steroids
Drinking most medications has the potential to cause negative side effects in the patient who uses them. So can you drink alcohol on steroids? While alcohol and steroids don’t interact directly, they can potentiate each other’s side effects leading to severe illness. However, the risks are not considered to be as great as with many other medicines. Most doctors who prescribe AAS drugs acknowledge that drinking in moderation while on the medication is okay.
The concern arises when the patients abuse one or both substances. For example, someone who takes anabolic steroid injections twice or more will often have an increased risk of dangerous mental and physical side effects when drinking. Moderation is key when it comes to steroids and alcohol. Alcohol affects everyone differently and everyone has different alcohol metabolism. The risks of drinking while being anabolic depend on many factors such as age, medical condition, and the interacting drug. Consulting a health professional regarding steroids and alcohol assessment, one’s medical condition, average alcohol intake, and daily steroid dose can help in assessing the risks for the person’s health.
Can You Drink Alcohol On Steroids?
The main concern about mixing steroids and alcohol is that alcohol can worsen the side effects of steroids. For example, alcohol consumption with steroids may help weaken the bones and can promote weight gain. If you want to drink alcohol while taking steroids, it’s best to speak to your healthcare provider for medical advice.
There is no clear answer to whether it is safe to drink alcohol while taking steroids. It depends on several factors, including:
- How large the dose of steroids is
- Whether the treatment course is short or long-term
- How much alcohol the patient usually drinks
- Other medical conditions a person has
What Happens When You Mix Steroids and Alcohol?
There are several possible side effects of mixing steroids with alcohol. These include:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Weakened immune system
- Weight gain
- Brittle bones
- Changes in blood sugar levels
- Chest pain
- Mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety
- Allergic reactions
- Increased appetite
- Stomach ulcers
- Steroid-induced diabetes
Dangers of Mixing Steroids and Alcohol
Understandably, people taking AAS drugs may not wish to abstain from alcohol while using them. Drinking is often a part of socializing, and pairing the right drink with a meal can greatly enhance it. However, once users understand the risks, they may wish to cut back their imbibing or stop it completely.
Mixing steroids and Alcohol Can Cause a Wide Variety of Problems, Including:
- Liver toxicity and damage
- Kidney damage
- Erratic and violent behavior
- Loss of gains at the gym
Due to the steroid mechanism of action, the development of these side effects can be unpredictable. Users must understand them in full before they take on the risk of drinking while on anabolics. In case, abuse of any of both substances becomes an addiction, it is critical to seek proper substance abuse treatment.
Both alcohol and anabolic steroids are hepatotoxic. Taking alcohol and steroids can be fatal. This means that they can damage the liver cells when the organ is processing the substances. Using them at the same time means putting extra strain on the liver, increasing the risk of damage.
Some steroids are more hepatotoxic than others, so users should research their steroid medication of choice before drinking. No matter what steroid a person is on, having more than a few drinks a week with steroids and alcohol will greatly increase the risk of damage. Thus, while one can drink on anabolics, this means occasionally, not habitually. Straining the liver with drinking on anabolics is best avoided completely if possible.
Both steroids and alcohol can reduce the function of the immune system. Steroids always inhibit the immune system, including AAS drugs. Alcohol, on the other hand, has been shown to boost the immune system depending on the type consumed potentially. However, this is only when drinking in moderation. Excessive drinking of any substance harms the immune system.
Combining two immunosuppressive substances has the potential to harm the user greatly. Given that athletes need always to be their best, using both alcohol and steroids is counterintuitive. They risk getting sick often and performing less than their best as a result.
Behaviors Health Disorders
One of the lesser-known consequences of drinking alcohol and steroids is the impact it has on mental health, oftentimes continual mix of alcohol and steroids would lead to compounding mental health disorders. Athletes focus heavily on the physical self, and thus, are not always thinking about the mental health consequences of their actions. However, mental health side effects, including mood swings and violent behavior, are attributed to both anabolics and drinking. Due to the way AAS drugs impact testosterone and estrogen, users can cycle between feelings of euphoria, rage, and deep depression. This can result in them acting out in unpredictable and harmful ways.
Undermining Workout Results
Finally, there is the fact that mixing steroids and alcohol can undermine the results the user is working so hard to achieve. Everyone has heard the term beer belly, and this is very much a reality. However, it can be caused by any form of alcohol and the effects can be seen everywhere, not just in the abdomen.
Alcohol hurts the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. This is a hormonal and endocrine system that regulates the male reproductive system. Alcohol interacts with the system by lowering testosterone and allowing estrogen to become relatively higher. This can make the body more prone to retaining fat and reducing muscle mass. As a result, mixing alcohol and steroids can, in effect, render the AAS drugs useless.
Steroids and Alcohol Side Effects
Some serious but rare side effects could happen if you mix alcohol and a corticosteroid like prednisone. Corticosteroids can lower your bone mineral density — a marker of bone health. Research has shown that chronic heavy alcohol use also causes your bone mineral density to go down. This can raise your risk for osteoporosis (weakened and brittle bones).
Additionally, alcohol can irritate your stomach lining and potentially result in bleeding. And corticosteroids, especially when taken with NSAIDs, can also put you at a higher risk of stomach bleeding — which is serious. If you notice bloody or black, tarry stools, or blood in your vomit, get medical attention right away.
Are Steroids Addictive?
Anabolic Steroids are either prescribed by a doctor or obtained illegally. There are over 100 types of Anabolic Steroids, only a fraction of which have been approved for medical use.
Even though Steroids don’t chemically produce euphoria or a “high” like a typical addictive substance, those who regularly abuse these drugs are at risk of developing a severe addiction. The desire to continue feeling good about oneself and achieve the desired appearance can quickly take over, fueling greater and greater use. Any time a medication is used without a prescription or beyond its medical scope or intended purpose, it is considered abuse.
Anabolic Steroids are addictive due to two primary factors. The first is the behavior of many individuals with Substance Use Disorders (SUDs), the compulsive need to seek out and use Anabolic Steroids. The second is the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when the user cuts back on or stops Steroid use completely. The obsessive-compulsive behavior to keep using Anabolic Steroids often begins when the Steroids improve physical appearance and strength in a short amount of time, which may eventually result in an addiction developing.
Individuals with a history of SUDs are at a higher risk of abusing Anabolic Steroids. This is also true of individuals who have co-occurring disorders, especially body dysmorphia, as they may find themselves continuously using Steroids to chase an idealized body image even after they have long since surpassed their original goal.
Treatment for Alcohol and Steroid Abuse
How to Stop Taking Steroids
Stopping them abruptly is a bad idea. It can trigger mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, achy muscles, and depression. Halting anabolics may knock down your sex drive. If you were taking steroids to treat an illness, those symptoms may come back, too. It’s safer to slowly reduce, or taper, your dose. Your doctor can tell you how. Any symptoms you get as a result will be less severe.
Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction
Here are some of the best treatment options for alcohol use disorder (AUD):
Inpatient treatment for alcohol addiction treatment is a great option. These intensive programs are usually 30, 60, or 90 days. However, they can be longer in some instances.
Medication-assisted therapy (MAT)
Certain people qualify for medication-assisted therapy. Medications can help you detox from alcohol, reduce cravings, and normalize bodily functions. MAT is most effective when combined with other treatment therapies.
Support groups for addiction treatment are peer-led groups that help people stay sober. They can be a first step in overcoming alcoholism or a component of an aftercare plan. Many of them follow the 12-step approach. However, there are also secular options that don’t follow the 12-step approach.
Reclaim Your Life From Alcohol and Steroid Abuse
Mixing alcohol and steroids is a condition that can cause severe health, social and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up rehab treatment & detox center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from addiction with professional and safe detox. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.