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Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

Key Points

  • Alcohol thins the blood by impairing your platelet’s capacity to clot.
  • Clots help your body stanch the flow of blood from an injury.
  • Blood that is too thin can be dangerous.
  • Alcohol can intensify the effects of other blood thinners.
  • If you are abusing alcohol, seek treatment immediately.

Yes. Alcohol thins your blood by reducing your blood cell production and by making your platelets less “sticky.” Alcohol works similarly to prescription blood thinners which decrease the risk of stroke by thinning the buildup of platelets that could eventually dislodge.

But, if the blood is too thin, the body may not be able to coagulate blood after an injury. Do not take alcohol while on other blood thinners unless you talk to your doctor.

Alcohol Facts

Alcohol (active ingredient is ethanol) is a toxin that thins your blood by two methods:

Reduces blood cell production in your bone marrow.
Impairs your blood platelets’ capacity to clot (stick together).

It’s thought that ethanol also inhibits “VKORC1”, an essential enzyme for activating the vitamin K available in the body.[1]

It’s produced in the liver and, under normal sub-toxic conditions, will be produced in sufficient amounts. But, since your liver is the main bodily organ through which the toxin alcohol is eliminated through the body when it’s busy filtering out the ethanol, it can’t spend as much energy producing the enzyme “VKORC1”.[2]

Research into alcohol use disorder found an extreme Vitamin K deficiency in chronic alcoholic males.[3] Without easily activated Vitamin K, your body’s platelets lose their stickiness and cannot clot as easily. Clotting is not as universally dangerous as it sounds.

However, without the clotting function of your platelets, you could bleed out after getting a paper cut. Platelets (otherwise known as thrombocytes) gather at the site of an injury and stick to the injured blood vessel in order to staunch the bleeding by forming a clot. This covers the wound and prevents further blood from leaking out.

But, sometimes, a buildup of platelets in your veins can break free (colloquially known as a “clot”) and travel toward your lungs and heart. This can be deadly. Thwarting spontaneous clot dislodging is why blood thinners like Warfarin and Heparin are prescribed.[4]

But, if taken in combination with other blood thinners, alcohol can intensify the effects of the blood thinner, which can leave you vulnerable to injury.

Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?Effects of Alcohol On The Body

Alcohol depresses your central nervous system (CNS), and the “buzz” you feel is the neurons in your brain and spine which aren’t firing as quickly as they would like to be. It gets absorbed into your bloodstream, and your liver must do the hard work of filtering it out.

Alcohol is classified as a toxin and affects nearly every major organ in your body.[5] Over consuming alcohol has some immediate effects that can be a detriment to life and wellness. These are most often the result of binge drinking and include the following[6]:

  • Injuries (accidents, crashes, burns, etc.)
  • Violence (to self, to others, etc.)
  • Poisoning
  • Lack of sexual inhibitions (e.g. not using protection, which could lead to sexually transmitted diseases)
  • Greater risk of pregnant women developing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) or miscarrying the fetus

Because alcohol depresses your CNS, you might not respond as quickly as you should if your start losing large amounts of blood while on a blood thinner.

Why The Blood-Thinning Properties of Alcohol Are Dangerous

Alcohol prevents blood clots. If you seriously injure yourself while under the influence of alcohol, you could be part of the cohort of 25 to 85% of admitted trauma patients who arrive at the hospital under the influence of alcohol with blood coagulation impairment.[7]

If you were to get in a motor vehicle crash and lose a lot of blood, you need your body’s full clotting ability to keep what precious little blood you have inside your body. But drinking and driving does more than increase your risk of injury because it slows down your reaction times.

Alcohol also decreases your chance of surviving the injury because you will lose more blood without the same natural ability to clot.[8]

Too much clotting is dangerous because platelets can build up in your veins and then dislodge. Clots can travel to your heart or brain and cause a heart attack or stroke. This is a common reason people get a blood thinner prescribed by their doctor.

Do not drink alcohol for its blood-thinning effects as an alternative to medication prescribed by a doctor. Drinking alcohol for its blood thinning effects may undoubtedly produce it, but the other unhealthy effects are sure to outweigh, or even exacerbate, the desired one.

Effects of Alcohol On The Brain

The immediate consequence of heavy alcohol consumption is the interference with the normal functioning of the brain areas, which control balance, memory, speech, and judgment.[8] Injuries under the influence of alcohol are more common than those not under the influence.

Frequently consuming alcohol in large amounts can potentially increase the risk of a stroke. While light to moderate alcohol use might be protective against total and ischemic stroke, drinking too much has the opposite effect.[9]

Long-Term Health Risks of Alcohol Use

Over time, the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems can stem from alcohol abuse, including[10]:

  • Increased risk of cardiac issues (heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.)
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Weak immune system and frequent colds
  • Memory problems and reduced cognitive function
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Dependence on alcohol or alcohol use disorder (AUD)

Additionally, it’s common to experience significant lifestyle problems like financial trouble, social disharmony, family conflict, and career challenges.

By limiting drinking to only 1 or 2 drinks per day (for women and men respectively), you can significantly reduce the chance of acquiring these health risks.

Treatment For Alcohol Use Disorder

If you are abusing alcohol, seek treatment immediately. Alcohol Use Disorder requires a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatment plan. Many qualified treatment facilities can help you get the treatment you need.

If high standards of living, a beachfront lifestyle, and innovative programming would help you build healthy habits, then look no further than Ocean Recovery in Orange County, CA.

Regardless of where you receive treatment, some combination of therapies could help, including individual therapy, one-on-one psychiatric care, group therapy, experiential therapy, family counseling, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

Don’t Risk The Effects Of Alcohol Abuse

If you or a loved one suffers from alcohol use disorder or are misusing other blood thinners, seek treatment immediately. Get a professional addiction expert to help craft a recovery plan that puts you in charge of your own sobriety journey.

Frequently Asked Questions About Alcohol and Thinning Your Blood

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding Alcohol.

You can, but you should consult your doctor before making that choice. It will intensify the blood thinner’s effects and will make it difficult to clot if you injure yourself.

It depends on metabolism, gender, drink contents, etc. On average, the CDC recommends for alcohol consumption that men have no more than 2 drinks or less per day, and women have 1 drink or less per day.[11]

The CDC reports a standard drink should contain approximately 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. For refernece, that level of pure alcohol is commonly found in these formats[12]:

  • For drinks containing 5% alcohol (most beers), 12 ounces is one serving
  • For drinks containing 7% alcohol (malt liquor), 8 ounces is one serving
  • For drinks containing 12% alcohol (wine), 5 ounces is one serving
  • For drinks containing 40% alcohol (distilled spirits), 1.5 ounces is one serving

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[1][2] Warfarin – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf – National Center for … (n.d.).


[3] R;, I. F. M. P. (n.d.). Vitamin K deficiency in chronic alcoholic males. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research.


[4] U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Blood thinners | anticoagulants. MedlinePlus.


[5] Rusyn, I., & Bataller, R. (2013, August). Alcohol and toxicity. Journal of hepatology.


[6][10][11][12] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, April 14). Drinking too much alcohol can harm your health. learn the facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


[7] Eismann, H., Sieg, L., Ahmed, H., Teske, J., Behrendt, P., Friedrich, L., Schumacher, C., & Johanning, K. (2020, August). Influence of alcohol consumption on blood coagulation in rotational thromboelastometry (rotem): An in-vivo study. Korean journal of anesthesiology.


[8] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.-a). Alcohol and the brain: An overview. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

[9] Reynolds K;Lewis B;Nolen JD;Kinney GL;Sathya B;He J; (n.d.). Alcohol consumption and risk of stroke: A meta-analysis. JAMA.

Last medically reviewed August 18, 2023.