Mixing Alcohol and Blood Thinners

person mixing blood thinners and alcohol

Blood thinners, also known as anticoagulants, are life-saving medications that are prescribed to prevent the formation of blood clots in the body. These medications are often prescribed to prevent a stroke in people who are at risk for developing a blood clot. Commonly prescribed anticoagulants include heparin, Coumadin (warfarin), Xarelto (rivaroxaban), Pradaxa (dabigatran) and Eliquis (apixaban).

Sometimes blood thinners are prescribed for a short period of time after certain surgeries, but they are usually long-term medications that are taken for the rest of a person’s life. Because it is possible that people may have to take blood thinners for a long time, you may wonder if there are any interactions between blood thinners and alcohol.

Mixing alcohol and anticoagulants may change the way your medication affects your body. Understanding the possible side effects and risks from mixing alcohol and blood thinners can help you to better manage your medications and know what questions you should ask your doctor.

Side Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Blood Thinners

There is general agreement that mixing alcohol and blood thinners should be limited because alcohol can change the way certain medications, including blood thinners, affect your body. One of the potential side effects of blood thinners and alcohol is that you could bleed more easily. Long-term alcohol use can also cause damage and injury to the liver, which is a vital organ responsible for producing certain proteins that are important for blood clotting. Blood clotting disorders can occur due to severe liver damage from chronic alcohol use.

Because of the possible effects of alcohol, most doctors recommend that you limit the amount of alcohol you drink if you are taking anticoagulants. It is important to talk to your doctor about any possible effects on your medications before you make any changes to the amount of alcohol you drink.

Risks of Alcohol on Blood Thinner Medication

The most significant risks associated with mixing alcohol and blood thinners is that it could lead to increased risk of bleeding and difficulty in stopping bleeding once it has started. Serious bleeding is a medical emergency and could be deadly if not treated properly and quickly.

If you are taking blood-thinning medications, you should contact your doctor immediately if you have any of the following signs of serious bleeding:

  • Excessive or unusual bruising
  • Bleeding from your gums or nose that does not stop with routine first aid
  • A cut that does not stop bleeding with first aid
  • Blood in your urine or brown urine
  • Blood or tar-like substance in stools
  • Vomit that is bright red or brown
  • Coughing red mucus or blood
  • Severe pain such as headache or stomach ache
  • Menstrual bleeding that is much heavier than normal
  • A serious fall or bump on the head
  • Dizziness or weakness

If you are experiencing serious bleeding, it is important for you to tell your doctor all the medications and supplements you are taking and any food or drink that you have consumed recently. This can help them determine if something is causing an interaction that could lead to serious bleeding.

Is Alcohol a Blood Thinner?

Alcohol has been an interesting topic for research studies for many years. Studies have shown that light-to-moderate alcohol intake can have a modest benefit in preventing heart disease. However, heavy drinking significantly increases the risk of heart disease and other organ damage. Research has even indicated that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke. While the potential blood-thinning activity of alcohol may be beneficial for the average person, it can be dangerous if someone is mixing alcohol and blood thinners.

Although alcohol may have an anti-clotting action when consumed at light-to-moderate amounts, people should not use it as a means to self-medicate conditions that would require prescription anticoagulants. It is important to follow the instructions of your doctor and talk to your medical provider about any possible effects on your medications before you make any changes in the amount of alcohol you drink.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol dependence, help is available. The Recovery Village Ridgefield offers comprehensive and individualized treatment plans that can help you learn skills for life-long recovery. Contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield today to learn more about comprehensive treatment options.

Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality. “Blood Thinner Pills: Your Guide to Using them Safely.” Reviewed November 2018. Accessed August 29, 2019.

American College of Cardiology. “Light-to-Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Have Protective Health Effects.” August 14, 2017. Accessed August 29, 2019.

American Heart Association. “Cardiac Medications.” Reviewed July 31, 2015. Accessed August 29, 2019.

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. “How does the liver work?” Updated August 22, 2016. Accessed August 29, 2019.

Larsson, Susanna; Wallin, Alice; Wolk, Alicja; Markus, Hugh S. “Differing association of alcohol consumption with different stroke types: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” BMC Medicine, November 24, 2016. Accessed August 29, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.