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Is Alcohol a Blood Thinner?

Is Alcohol a Blood Thinner?

Is Alcohol a Blood Thinner?

We know that the things we put into our bodies have an impact on our lives. We know that when we eat unhealthy things, it has a negative effect on us, and when we eat healthy things, it has a positive effect. Typically, we focus on the long-term effects of the things we consume. Food and drink affect our weight, our cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and can cause or help us avoid diseases of the heart and so on. Because of this long-sightedness, we can often overlook the immediate effects of things. With alcohol, we understand there are long-term effects that can be negative, but in the immediate future when we’re drinking, the focus is on the fun or escape that is near. We can miss the small things that alcohol can do — like thin our blood. Let’s take a look at how alcohol’s blood-thinning effects can impact our health. But first, let’s consider why this is something we here in Massachusetts should be aware of.

Alcohol Consumption in Massachusetts

Across the country, alcohol is the most widely consumed mind-altering substance. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 85.6% of people ages 18 and older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime, 69.5% reported that they drank in the past year, and 54.9% reported that they drank in the past month. In Massachusetts, reports state that nearly 1 in 5 Bay Staters drinks excessively. With 19.5% of the population binge drinking, the state ranks 13th in the country for most drinking done.

How Does Alcohol Thin Blood?

Alcohol does act as a blood thinner. It does this by interfering with blood cell production within bone marrow. This interference reduces the number of platelets in the blood. Platelets are sticky and help with blood clotting. Consider when you have a scratch that is bleeding. As soon as the scratch occurs, platelets begin to rush to the sight of the scratch to begin the healing process. They do this by clotting the blood to stop the bleeding. Alcohol not only reduces the number of platelets in the blood but also makes the platelets that are there less sticky.

Is Having Thin Blood Dangerous?

As we just made clear, drinking alcohol thins the blood. Because it does this, drinking alcohol can potentially increase the risk for strokes that are caused by bleeding (hemorrhagic strokes). These strokes occur, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures (breaks open). The leaked blood puts too much pressure on brain cells, which damages them.” There are two kinds of hemorrhagic strokes.

  • Intracerebral hemorrhage is the most common type of hemorrhagic stroke. It occurs when an artery in the brain bursts, flooding the surrounding tissue with blood.
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage is a less common type of hemorrhagic stroke. It refers to bleeding in the area between the brain and the thin tissues that cover it.

These dangers are why it is so important to talk to your doctor about drinking and your general state of health. Drinking in moderation is in most cases the safest option if you choose to drink at all. Drinking in moderation — two or fewer drinks per day for a male and one or less for females — can actually reduce your risk for the most common kind of stroke (ischemic stroke). These strokes occur when blood flow through an artery is blocked. Hence, the blood-thinning qualities of alcohol can help prevent those strokes.

Is Blood Thinning a Short-Term Effect?

The effects of alcohol on the viscosity (thickness/thinness) of blood are largely short-lived. If a person drinks in moderation, then when they have sobered up, their blood is generally returned to natural levels. Again, drinking in moderation, according to the CDC, is having two or fewer drinks a day for a male and one or less per day for a female. A standard drink can best be described as the following:

  • 12 ounces of beer with 5% ABV (alcohol by volume)
  • 5 ounces of wine with 12% ABV
  • 1.5 ounces (one shot) of spirits with 40% ABV

Thinning of the blood is not the only short-term effect that occurs when consuming alcohol. Other effects can include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Clumsiness
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of consciousness (passing out)
  • Headache

Can Alcohol Replace My Blood Thinner Medication?

Consuming alcohol should never be used as a replacement for taking prescribed medication. Doctors prescribe medications like blood thinners for your safety. Specifically with blood thinners, the doctor has prescribed the medication to prevent blood clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke. We are not telling you something you don’t know at this point, but the doctor prescribed those blood thinners because you have heart disease or are at a heightened risk for either a heart attack or stroke. If you try to replace your blood thinner with alcohol, not only are you not getting the desired effects of the medication, but you are also putting yourself at risk for a multitude of other things, including a hemorrhagic stroke. Drinking too much can also lead to alcohol use disorder or a number of different health issues, such as:

  • Accidental injury
  • Motor vehicle accident
  • Transmission of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stomach issues
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Alcohol dependence
  • Birth defects and/or miscarriages

Drinking While on Blood Thinner Medication

Can you drink alcohol when you’re taking a blood thinner? This is a question you need to take to your doctor. It is best with any medication to know how it reacts to alcohol also being in your system. When it comes to blood thinner medication, consulting your doctor is especially important. Your doctor understands your background and situation better than anyone on the internet does. Even if you know others that do drink on blood thinners, talk to your doctor because there may be other risks that can impact the combination for you. Both alcohol and blood thinner medications, like warfarin or rivaroxaban, thin your blood, and together, they could compound to actually increase your risk of bleeding. Drinking alcohol along with these medications may also be dangerous because it can slow down the process of your body breaking down the medication. If you are drinking and have no plans to consult a doctor, please just do so in moderation. Do not test the limits of your body.

Alcohol Detox and Rehabilitation

If you’ve taken to alcohol to substitute for other medications and/or to cope with issues in your life, there is still time to make a change. Depending on multiple factors, making the change can start with a period of detox. In most cases, detoxing with the help of medical professionals is the safest and most comfortable way to begin the journey to recovery. This can be done with the professionals at Swift River in Cummington. During the detox period, you will face withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild to severe. Withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Depression
  • Tremors
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia (sleeplessness)
  • Irritability
  • Nightmares
  • General discomfort

After a detox period that usually lasts from 7-10 days, a person will need to move into outpatient or inpatient treatment. Treatment for alcohol use disorder should come with a variety of evidence-based therapies and comprehensive programs to help clients stop drinking and regain control of their lives.

Call Swift River – Massachusetts

Swift River offers inpatient and outpatient alcohol rehab treatment and detox options at our location in Cummington. If you or a loved one is in need of treatment or simply has questions about what treatment at our facility may look like, call us at (844) 906-0978.


How long does it take for alcohol to thin the blood? Alcohol thinning the blood is a short-lived effect for those that drink in moderation or infrequently. If someone misuses alcohol or is living with an alcohol use disorder (AUD), these effects can become serious and long-lasting, however. Drinking in moderation, according to the CDC, is drinking two or fewer drinks a day for a male and one or less per day for a female. For males over 65, the daily limit lowers to one drink. A standard drink can best be described as the following:

  • 12 ounces of beer with 5% ABV (alcohol by volume)
  • 5 ounces of wine with 12% ABV
  • 1.5 ounces (one shot) of spirits with 40% ABV

Does alcohol cause blood clots? Alcohol actually does the opposite. It interferes with blood cell production within bone marrow. This interference reduces the number of platelets in the blood, in turn making your blood thinner. Thinning the blood frequently with alcohol can lead to a higher risk of stroke.

Contact Swift River Now

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