Is Alcohol A Blood Thinner And Why It Matters

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Alcohol is one of the most commonly used drugs in the world, especially here in the United States and in other Western countries. But is alcohol a blood thinner, as well?

A lot of people, including alcohol consumers, consistently underestimate the ways their alcohol use might affect their bodies and brains, and that can lead to dangerous situations. Drinking too much, drinking while on certain medications, or drinking with certain health conditions, known or unknown, can all significantly increase your risk. 

A lot of people even think that alcohol working as a blood thinner is either an urban myth or that that means that the occasional drink can replace their blood thinning medications. 

Here’s what you need to know, including whether alcohol is a blood thinner, how alcohol works in your body, and potential signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder. 

Is alcohol a blood thinner?

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Body? 

It’s a pretty common assumption that alcohol doesn’t have too many effects on your body other than making you intoxicated and giving you a bit of a buzz. And, in small quantities, it’s true that most people don’t need to worry much about the larger list of alcohol’s effects, but that doesn’t mean that getting a buzz is all it does. 

In fact, drinking alcohol can have both short term and long-term effects on just about every part of your body. 

The first thing you should know about alcohol is that its specific effects, and how severe those effects are, is highly individual. You will have a different reaction to alcohol than your parents, your best friend, or even your siblings. 

But before we jump into answering the question of “Is alcohol a blood thinner?”, let’s take a look at some factors that can impact how a person’s body may be impacted by alcohol due to multiple factors. There are also specific factors that can be used to help predict someone’s tolerance to alcohol and how they might deal with the drug. Those factors include things like

  • Age
  • Physical sex
  • Medical conditions
  • Use of other drugs or medications
  • Weight
  • Mental health
  • And much more

For instance, men generally have a higher tolerance for alcohol than women, which is part of why men can have slightly more alcohol in a sitting before they start risking the most common complications from the drug. 

That said, alcohol isn’t really safe for anyone, especially consumed in large quantities. 

Alcohol affects both your body and your brain. Any alcohol you drink will get absorbed into your blood, and then carried throughout your body before eventually being filtered out and removed by your liver. Drinking too much alcohol can have damaging effects just about everywhere in your body, but can have an acute impact on your liver and brain. 

Over time, one of the serious risks of alcohol use and especially alcohol misuse is that the drug can actually cause cell death and shrink your brain. While your body can recover from this kind of damage over time, neurons are some of the slowest cells in our body to grow and recover, and new neurons develop very slowly as well. So, if you do experience brain damage or shrinkage as a result of drinking, those effects are likely to be very long lasting and may be functionally permanent. 

Alcohol also has a range of effects on other parts of your body, including reducing your overall quality of sleep, increasing stomach acidity and increasing your risk of diarrhea and heartburn. 

Alcohol use can also interfere with your kidney’s normal function, causing them to overproduce urine, which can make staying properly hydrated while drinking alcohol more of a challenge. Not to mention that the alcohol itself is dehydrating, so drinking water and electrolyte replenishing beverages is even more important.

Of course, long term, alcohol use can also increase your risk for liver disease and may contribute to liver failure, especially when combined with other drugs or medications, including over the counter medicines. 

Is Alcohol A Blood Thinner? 

So, is alcohol a blood thinner? People seem largely split on whether they think alcohol is a blood thinner, or whether they think this factoid is more urban myth than reality. 

That’s people in general though, when it comes to alcohol thinning your blood, the experts aren’t split. 

There is no question of is alcohol a blood thinner – Alcohol is a blood thinner. 

In fact, that’s part of why some studies show that mild to moderate drinking might be beneficial in some ways, and why so many news organizations were recommending people drink a glass of wine a day for a while. 

That said, the potential benefits of the occasional glass of wine working to lower your risk of stroke are generally far outweighed by the serious risk of alcohol misuse and the many other ways alcohol can impact your body, usually for the worse. 

Including, unfortunately, that heavy drinking increases your risk of having a stroke rather than decreasing it. 

Alcohol being a blood thinner may also make it riskier to take certain medications, especially medications that can also work as a blood thinner or that can have an anti-inflammatory effect. The combination of these drugs can prevent your blood from clotting even when it needs to, which can have a wide range of negative consequences. 

What Does Alcohol Thinning The Blood Mean For Drinkers? 

When the subject of “Is alcohol a blood thinner?” is brought up, it can also induce several other concerns. There are a lot of potential consequences for drinkers when it comes to alcohol thinning the blood.

That said, for most mild to moderate drinkers, i.e. people who only have 1-2 drinks at a time, and who only drink 2-4 days a week or less, alcohol is mostly safe. You shouldn’t combine alcohol with certain medications, including some over the counter pain medications, certain psych medications, and many medications designed to treat specific conditions. But, outside of that scenario, most people will have only mild to moderate short-term complications from alcohol use, and their long-term risks should remain low. 

For people who drink more, or who drink more often, the risks associated with alcohol use increase exponentially. The more you drink in a single sitting, and the more often you drink can both increase your risks. 

One of the biggest risks of chronic drinking is that drinking that much can increase your risk of having a hemorrhagic stroke, sometimes called a brain bleed. Drinking alcohol can also increase your risk of developing other kinds of bleeding, and may be riskier if you know you already have a bleeding condition like a stomach ulcer or ulcerative colitis of the intestines. 

Additionally, people who have been drinking alcohol may be at greater risk of excessive bleeding if they are cut or wounded while still under the influence of alcohol. Unfortunately, people who are drinking are also at greater risk of being wounded because of their lowered inhibitions and impaired reflexes and proprioception (ability to tell where they are in space). 

Is it safe to drink alcohol while taking blood thinners?

Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol While Taking Blood Thinners? 

No, though the exact risks can depend on what blood thinner medication you’re taking, what dose, why you’re taking the medication, and how much you drink and when. 

There are a few reasons that it’s not typically safe to combine alcohol and prescription blood thinners, though the exact reasons might not be what you’re thinking of. 

One of the main dangers of combining alcohol and blood thinners is that the alcohol may interfere with the normal function of the medication

That basically means that, depending on the medication, you may not get the full benefit of the medication if you are also drinking alcohol, or that you might get too much blood thinning as a result of taking the medication and drinking alcohol. 

One of the main risks that can increase when you combine blood thinners and alcohol is the risk of a stomach bleed or developing a bleeding stomach ulcer. Fortunately, if you are diagnosed with a stomach ulcer, there are effective treatments that can help the ulcer heal. 

However, you generally need to stop drinking until the ulcer is healed for those treatments to be effective. 

Is Drinking Alcohol While Taking Blood Thinners A Sign Of Addiction? 


It’s important to talk with your doctor about the risks of drinking while you’re taking a blood thinner. In some cases, depending on which blood thinning medication you are taking, and your specific dose, occasional drinking might be okay. 

However, if you cannot stop drinking or reduce how much you are drinking, you might be dealing with an addiction. 

One of the most important things people need to know about alcohol addiction is that you p