Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

Mature woman at desk reading book by glass of red wine
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Drinking alcohol has effects on blood coagulation. If you drink a moderate amount of alcohol, it may have the benefit of acting as a blood thinner and be protective against clotting in clogged arteries, in some ways similar to aspirin. At the same time, alcohol may increase the risk of bleeding-type strokes. It also will interact with prescription anticoagulants such as Coumadin (warfarin).

Moderate Drinking and Health

Moderate drinking is a balancing act of sorts. If you drink exactly the right amount to be "moderate," it may be better in some health effects than not drinking at all. But if you drink just a tad over the guidelines for moderate, it is much more dangerous than not drinking at all. Even if you hit the sweet spot, moderate drinking is a two-edged sword with some beneficial effects and some negative ones.

Precautions Against Drinking Alcohol While Taking Blood Thinners

You should limit alcohol consumption while taking anticoagulant blood thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin), as alcohol can potentially increase the risk of bleeding with this prescribed drug. It may also be more difficult for your healthcare providers to determine the correct dosage for the prescribed blood thinner if you also drink alcohol.

Also, consider the other prescriptions that you take. Sometimes they interact with blood thinners and alcohol. Follow the precautions and refrain from drinking if that is recommended.

Don't Substitute Alcohol for Prescription Blood Thinners

Likewise, if you need anticoagulation to reduce health risk, it is unwise to think that drinking alcohol is a substitute for prescribed blood thinners. When your doctor prescribes an anticoagulant such as Coumadin, you will also have your blood tested regularly to ensure you are getting just the right amount of blood thinning. Too little and you aren't protected; too much and you risk bleeding.

Contrasting Effects of Alcohol on Coagulation

Some studies have shown that moderate drinkers tend to have lower rates of heart disease, but higher rates of bleeding-type strokes than abstainers. "The contrasting effects of alcohol are similar to the effects of blood thinners like aspirin, which clearly prevent heart attacks but at the expense of some additional bleeding strokes," said Kenneth J. Mukamal, a researcher with numerous papers on the effects of alcohol on coagulation and cardiovascular risks.

A Word From Verywell

Although moderate drinking may have some health benefits, there is risk involved, too. If you don't drink, the risks of developing other problems associated with alcohol may be too great to begin drinking for its limited health benefits.

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  2. Roth JA, Bradley K, Thummel KE, Veenstra DL, Boudreau D. Alcohol misuse, genetics, and major bleeding among warfarin therapy patients in a community setting. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2015;24(6):619-27. doi:10.1002/pds.3769

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol use and your health. Updated December 30, 2019.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diagnosis and treatment of venous thromboembolism. Updated February 7, 2020.

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