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  • The quick answer to this question is yes, alcohol does act as a blood thinner. Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol can help prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of a heart attack, but there are a few risks as well. 

    If alcohol is abused, it can increase the risk of heart attacks and cause damage to other organs. 

    The risks associated with alcohol use can far outweigh the benefits of its blood-thinning qualities.

    How Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

    Moderate amounts of alcohol act as an anticoagulant in the blood. This means that it stops blood cells from sticking together and forming clumps. 

    Clumps of blood cells can form blockages in blood vessels and in the heart. These blockages can put you at an increased risk for: 

    • heart disease
    • high blood pressure
    • heart attacks
    • atrial fibrillation
    • ischemic strokes

    Moderate drinking may be able to lower the risk of clotting but it only does so for a short period of time.

    How Does Alcohol Stop Blood Cells From Sticking Together?

    Alcohol does this in a couple of different ways. It first reduces the number of platelets in the blood by getting in the way of blood cell production. It then makes the platelets less sticky so it’s harder for them to stick together and form clots.

    Risks Of Drinking Alcohol For Blood Thinning Effects

    While moderate alcohol use can work as a blood thinner, heavy alcohol intake and binge drinking can have very serious consequences. 

    Having more than three alcoholic beverages a day can put you at a higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke. If your brain starts to bleed and your blood has been thinned by too much alcohol, it may not be able to clot before you lose too much blood and hemorrhage. 

    Nosebleeds & Surgical Complications

    With thinner blood, you may also experience more nosebleeds as well as more bleeding of gums when brushing your teeth.

    Drinking alcohol is also not recommended before surgery because of its blood-thinning effects. You could possibly bleed more during surgery if you were to drink 24 hours before. Ignoring this medical advice could cause complications during the procedure.

    Negative Side Effects Of Heavy Alcohol Use

    Alcohol may have some blood-thinning benefits but it also has adverse side effects, especially when consumed in excessive amounts. These side effects can include organ damage, high blood pressure, weakening of the heart muscle, and an increased heart rate.

    Heavy alcohol consumption can also lead to accidents, mental health issues like depression, risky sexual behaviors, and liver disease.

    Alcohol & Blood Thinner Medications

    Since alcohol works as a blood thinner, you might wonder if you can use it instead of prescribed blood-thinning medication. The answer is no. Blood thinners are made to provide specific treatment for a specific medical condition made under strict guidelines

    Your healthcare provider also prescribes you the correct dosage for you depending on a number of factors. That cannot be said for alcohol. The effects of alcohol may be similar to blood thinners, but you should not replace your medication with alcohol.

    Some of the most common blood thinners include:

    • apixaban (Eliquis)
    • heparin (Innohep)
    • rivaroxaban (Xarelto)
    • warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven)

    Drinking Alcohol While Taking Blood Thinners

    Since blood thinners and alcohol are both anticoagulants, taking them together can cause serious issues.

    It can make your blood too thin and lead to hemorrhages, stroke, and if not treated, death. This is especially the case with heavy drinking.

    Make sure to check with your doctor before you drink alcohol with your medication.

    If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse, please call our helpline today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on August 17, 2022
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