Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol While Taking Diabetes Medication?

Diabetes affects tens of millions of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 37 million Americans are living with the disease. People with either type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes need medications to help keep their blood sugar levels normal, according to Healthline.  

The type of diabetes medication a doctor prescribes depends on the type of diabetes being treated. Insulin is the most common type of medication used to treat type 1 diabetes, where the body is unable to make its own insulin (per Healthline). Those who have type 2 diabetes produce insulin but the body doesn't use it efficiently to keep glucose (i.e., blood sugar) levels normal. Sulfonylureas are drugs commonly used for type 2 diabetes to stimulate the body to produce more insulin. 

In addition to taking prescription drugs that help the body control glucose levels, many people with diabetes need medications to treat conditions common with the disease including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. So should a person with diabetes who is on medication be concerned about enjoying an occasional alcoholic drink? 

Combining alcohol and diabetes medication can cause harmful effects

Alcohol and diabetes medication can interact with negative results. Keeping blood sugar levels normal is important in managing diabetes. If alcohol is combined with diabetes medication that works to lower blood sugar, it can compound the drop and result in serious interactions (via

People with type 2 diabetes who are on sulfonylureas or take the common treatment Metformin should avoid heavy drinking, which can put them at risk for hypoglycemia or lactic acidosis (per Healthline). Symptoms of hypoglycemia include drowsiness, dizziness, blurry vision, even loss of consciousness. Consuming too much alcohol while on Metformin, a drug that causes the body to produce more lactic acid than normal, may result in a dangerous build-up of lactic acid in the blood — a condition called lactic acidosis, which can lead to kidney, lung, and heart damage. If lactic acidosis is not treated immediately, it can cause organ failure and death.

Take precautions drinking alcohol when on diabetes medication

Most people with well-controlled diabetes on medication don't have to give up drinking entirely. Moderation is key, and precautions should be taken to avoid any medical emergency. According to Healthline, it's important for those with diabetes to check blood glucose levels before consuming alcohol. If blood sugar levels are low, that's a sign to pass on the alcoholic beverage. Furthermore, it's always a good idea to have a meal or at least a snack that includes carbs before and while drinking. This helps alcohol enter the bloodstream more slowly than on an empty stomach.

If you have diabetes and are interested in imbibing, you should talk to your doctor first. Alcohol affects everyone differently, and your doctor can tell you what moderation means for you, depending on your health condition and any medications you're on. If your doctor tells you not to drink, follow their advice (per WebMD).