Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

Alcohol consumption is a common practice in the United States, with millions of adults reporting drinking alcohol each year. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), over 85.6% of adults in the United States have reported consuming alcohol at some point in their life, with around 69.5% reporting having had a drink within the last year. According to the Mayo Clinic, women should have no more than one drink per day, and up to two drinks daily is the recommended allowance for men. Despite these warnings, alcohol consumption continues to be prevalent in the United States. 

Excessive alcohol consumption is a leading cause of many chronic conditions and is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the country, says the NIAAA. One potential health issue some people may run into is that alcohol is a blood thinner, meaning it may slow down or prevent the formation of blood clots in the body, which can have serious consequences. 

How alcohol thins the blood

One of the ways that alcohol thins the blood is by interfering with the body's ability to produce platelets, which are responsible for blood clotting, per a 2020 review published in the journal Alcohol. According to the review, lower levels of platelets in the bloodstream can lead to thrombocytopenia, a condition where platelet count falls below the lower limit range of 150,000 in a microliter of blood. A loss of platelets can interfere with the body's ability to form blood clots (via the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute). Blood clotting, also known as coagulation, is an essential process in the human body that helps to prevent excessive bleeding and promote wound healing. When a blood vessel is damaged, platelets and other clotting factors in the blood work together to form a clot that seals the damaged area and prevents further blood loss, per the American Society of Hematology.

Alcohol can also affect the function of the liver, says Patient. According to the source, abnormal clotting may indicate issues with the liver. This is because the liver produces proteins that are necessary for blood to clot properly, per the British Liver Trust. Furthermore, alcohol can cause the blood vessels to dilate, which can increase blood flow and pressure, per Scientific American.

Health conditions associated with excessive alcohol consumption

While moderate alcohol consumption may not significantly affect blood clotting, excessive consumption can lead to serious health problems, including an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, liver disease, and certain cancers, per the NIAAA. Therefore, it is important to consume alcohol in moderation and avoid binge drinking. This is defined as consuming four or more drinks for women or five or more for men at a single sitting, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, binge drinking is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.

Furthermore, alcohol consumption can have a significant impact on mental health. A 2022 study published in the journal Behavioural Neurology found that alcohol use disorders were associated with a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors and other mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues or is having suicidal thoughts, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.