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Can You Drink On Steroids? Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Performance Drugs

Can you drink on steroids?

Key Points

  • Mixing alcohol with steroids, whether corticosteroids or anabolic steroids, can lead to an increased risk of adverse effects and negate the intended benefits.
  • Corticosteroids, commonly used for their anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties, may interact with alcohol, potentially causing gastrointestinal irritation and liver stress.
  • Anabolic steroids, designed to mimic testosterone's effects for muscle growth and performance enhancement, can be seriously impacted by alcohol consumption.
  • Combining alcohol with anabolic steroids may exacerbate liver toxicity, disrupt natural hormone production, and increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.
  • It's imperative to avoid alcohol consumption while using either type of steroid, and individuals must consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

Steroid-based medications, when used appropriately, can provide relief for several different health conditions.[1] Whether prescribed for medical purposes or used illegally for performance enhancement, however, steroids can interact with alcohol in ways that increase the risk of adverse effects and potentially negate their intended benefits.

Mixing alcohol with steroids can not only undermine the effectiveness of the treatment but also heighten the risk of serious health complications, including liver damage, cardiovascular issues, and hormonal imbalances.

What Are Steroid-Based Medications?

Steroid-based medications, also known as corticosteroids or glucocorticoids, are synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of naturally occurring hormones produced by the adrenal glands.[2] Due to their potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties, these medications are widely used in various medical treatments.

Steroid-based medications are commonly prescribed for several purposes:[3]

  • Anti-inflammatory effects: They reduce inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Suppression of the immune system: Their immunosuppressive properties make them useful in treating autoimmune disorders, where the body’s immune system attacks its tissues. They are also used to prevent organ rejection in transplant recipients.
  • Respiratory conditions: Corticosteroids effectively treat respiratory disorders like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and severe allergic reactions.
  • Dermatological conditions: Topical corticosteroids treat skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis.
  • Cancer treatment: Certain steroid medications are combined with other cancer therapies to help reduce side effects or enhance the effectiveness of the treatment.

Steroid-based medications can be administered orally, intravenously, through inhalation, or topically (applied to the skin). The healthcare provider determines the specific medication, dosage, and duration of treatment based on the patient’s condition, severity, and response to the treatment.

It’s important to note that while steroid-based medications can be highly effective, they also carry potential side effects, especially with long-term use or high doses.[4] These side effects may include weight gain, fluid retention, increased blood sugar levels, suppression of the body’s natural hormone production, and an increased risk of infections.

What Are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are a type of synthetic derivative of the male hormone testosterone.[5] They are different from the steroid-based medications discussed above, which are primarily used for their anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects.

Anabolic steroids are designed to mimic the effects of testosterone in the body, such as promoting muscle growth, increasing bone density, and stimulating the production of red blood cells. They are also known as anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) because they possess both anabolic (muscle-building) and androgenic (masculinizing) properties.[6]

Anabolic steroids are primarily used for the following purposes:[7]

  • Performance enhancement: Some athletes and bodybuilders abuse anabolic steroids to gain an unfair advantage by increasing muscle mass, strength, and endurance. However, the use of anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes is illegal and considered doping in most professional and organized sports.
  • Medical treatments: Anabolic steroids are sometimes prescribed for legitimate medical purposes, such as treating certain types of anemia, severe burn injuries, or muscle-wasting disorders like HIV/AIDS-related cachexia. However, their use is carefully monitored and regulated due to the potential for abuse and side effects.

When taken in doses higher than those prescribed for medical purposes, anabolic steroids can cause a range of adverse effects, including:[8]

  • Cardiovascular problems: Increased heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure risk.
  • Hormonal imbalances: Disruption of natural hormone production, leading to infertility, male pattern baldness, and gynecomastia (breast development in men).
  • Liver damage: Prolonged use can lead to liver toxicity and increased risk of liver cancer.
  • Psychological effects: Mood swings, aggression, depression, and addiction.
  • Physical changes: Acne, fluid retention, and masculinization in women (deepening of the voice, excessive body hair growth, and other male characteristics).

It is crucial to understand that the non-medical use of anabolic steroids is illegal (and that they are a Schedule III substance per the Controlled Substances Act) and carries significant health risks. They should only be used under a qualified healthcare professional’s strict medical supervision and guidance.

Can You Drink Alcohol On Steroids?

Can you consume alcohol while on steroids?The safety of consuming alcohol while taking steroids depends on the type of steroid being used. However, the short answer to “Can you drink on steroids?” is no, it is not recommended. Here’s a breakdown of how performance drugs like steroids interact with alcohol.

Steroid-Based Medications (Corticosteroids)

Consuming alcohol while taking corticosteroid medications is generally not recommended as it can increase the risk of adverse effects and potentially reduce the effectiveness of the medication:[9]

Alcohol can irritate the stomach lining, which may increase the risk of gastrointestinal side effects like stomach ulcers or bleeding when taking corticosteroids. Alcohol can interact with corticosteroid medications, potentially increasing their levels in the body, which could lead to heightened side effects.

Both alcohol and corticosteroids can stress the liver, and combining them may increase the risk of liver damage or other hepatic complications. Alcohol can exacerbate some of the common side effects of corticosteroids, such as fluid retention, high blood pressure, and mood changes.

It is generally advisable to avoid or limit alcohol consumption while taking corticosteroid medications, and it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for specific guidance based on individual circumstances.

Anabolic Steroids

Consuming alcohol while taking anabolic steroids is not recommended, as it can have serious health implications, including: [10]

  • Alcohol can impair the liver’s ability to metabolize and excrete anabolic steroids, leading to an increased risk of liver damage, toxicity, and other adverse effects.
  • Alcohol can interfere with the body’s natural testosterone production, potentially counteracting the effects of anabolic steroids.
  • Both alcohol and anabolic steroids can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke when combined.
  • Alcohol can exacerbate some of the common side effects of anabolic steroids, such as mood swings, aggression, and depression.
  • Alcohol consumption may reduce the muscle-building and performance-enhancing effects of anabolic steroids, which is often the primary reason for their abuse.

It is strongly recommended to avoid consuming alcohol while taking anabolic steroids, as the combination can have severe and potentially life-threatening consequences. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for proper guidance and monitoring if you are using anabolic steroids.

If you find you are experiencing alcohol cravings that are hard to ignore during a course of steroid medication, you should seek treatment at a qualified addiction treatment facility.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding drinking on steroids

Alcohol can increase the risk of gastrointestinal irritation and bleeding when combined with corticosteroids, as both substances can irritate the lining of the stomach and intestines. Additionally, alcohol and corticosteroids may both contribute to fluid retention and electrolyte imbalances, potentially leading to high blood pressure and swelling.

While it may be safe for some individuals to consume alcohol after completing a course of corticosteroids, it’s essential to consider individual health factors and any lingering effects of the medication. Since corticosteroids can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infection, it’s advisable to wait until fully recovered before consuming alcohol to avoid additional strain on the body.

Individuals on long-term corticosteroid therapy should exercise caution when consuming alcohol due to the potential for increased risk of side effects and complications. Long-term corticosteroid use can weaken bones, increase blood sugar levels, and suppress the immune system, all of which can be exacerbated by alcohol consumption. Individuals on long-term corticosteroid therapy must discuss alcohol consumption with their healthcare provider and follow any specific guidelines or recommendations provided.

Combining alcohol and anabolic steroids can put additional strain on the liver, as both substances are metabolized by this organ. Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to liver damage, including inflammation, fatty liver disease, and cirrhosis. When combined with anabolic steroids, which may also have hepatotoxic effects, the risk of liver damage may be further increased. Individuals should be aware of these potential risks and consider reducing or avoiding alcohol consumption while using anabolic steroids, especially if they have pre-existing liver conditions or risk factors.

Alcohol consumption can impair muscle growth and recovery when using anabolic steroids. Alcohol interferes with protein synthesis, essential for muscle repair and growth after exercise. Additionally, alcohol can dehydrate the body and disrupt sleep patterns, both of which are crucial for optimal muscle recovery. Combining alcohol with anabolic steroids may hinder the desired effects of the medication and undermine efforts to build muscle mass and strength. It’s advisable for individuals using anabolic steroids to minimize alcohol consumption and prioritize lifestyle factors that support muscle recovery and overall health.

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[1] Steroids. (2019).; National Library of Medicine. on April 29, 2024

[2] Mayo Clinic. (2020, December 16). Prednisone and other corticosteroids: Balance the risks and benefits. Mayo Clinic. on April 29, 2024

[3] Cleveland Clinic. (2020). Corticosteroids | Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic. on April 29, 2024

[4] Information, N. C. for B., Pike, U. S. N. L. of M. 8600 R., MD, B., & Usa, 20894. (2018). Using steroids correctly and avoiding side effects. In Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). on April 29, 2024

[5, 7] MedLinePlus. (2021, June 2). Anabolic Steroids.; National Library of Medicine. on April 29, 2024

[6] Bond, P., Smit, D. L., & de Ronde, W. (2022). Anabolic–androgenic steroids: How do they work and what are the risks? Frontiers in Endocrinology, 13. on April 29, 2024

[8] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2023, May). Anabolic Steroids and Other Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs (APEDs). National Institute on Drug Abuse. on April 29, 2024

[9] Alcohol and prednisone: Are they safe to take together? (2019, May 7). on April 29, 2024

[10] Dodge, T., & Hoagland, M. F. (2011). The use of anabolic androgenic steroids and polypharmacy: A review of the literature. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. on April 29, 2024

Last medically reviewed May 13, 2024.