Blood thinners are drugs that prevent blood clots from forming. Doctors may advise people taking these medications to moderate their alcohol intake. Alcohol can also affect how long it takes for someone to stop bleeding, similar to blood thinners.

Blood clots can block small and large blood vessels, potentially causing serious health problems. Doctors prescribe two types of blood thinners to prevent blood clots: anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs.

Alcohol interferes with how well some medications work, and it can also affect how the body makes blood clots. Combining it with blood thinning drugs can result in side effects.

This article explains the safety and effects of drinking alcohol while using blood thinners.

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Alcohol interacts with certain medications. Therefore, people should always check with a doctor or pharmacist whether it is safe to drink alcohol with a particular blood thinner.

The following table lists the different types of antiplatelet and anticoagulant medications for thinning the blood:

acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin)warfarin (Coumadin)
acetylsalicylic acid and dipyridamole (Aggrenox)low molecular weight heparins
clopidogrel (Plavix)dabigatran (Pradaxa)
ticagrelor (Brilinta)bivalirudin (Angiomax)
prasugrel (Effient)apixaban (Eliquis)
cilostazol (Pletal)rivaroxaban (Xarelto)
argatroban (Acova)
edoxaban (Savaysa)

Doctors warn people who are taking Aggrenox to moderate their alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking with these drugs increases the risk of stomach bleeding.

People taking warfarin should also limit their intake of alcohol. A study in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety found that moderate-to-high alcohol use while taking warfarin can lead to major bleeding.

There are no specific warnings about consuming alcohol while taking other blood thinners. However, it is always advisable to consult a doctor or pharmacist before drinking alcohol with any new medication.

Researchers have found that low-to-moderate drinking could reduce certain processes that lead to heart disease and inflammation. However, more research is necessary to determine whether alcohol use is directly responsible for these possible heart benefits.

Alcohol use can also increase the time it takes for someone to stop bleeding, similar to a blood thinner.

Moderate alcohol use is generally safe while taking most blood thinners. For healthy adults, doctors recommend limiting alcohol intake to a maximum of two drinks a day for males and one drink a day for females.

Some people should completely avoid drinking alcohol while on blood thinners. These individuals include those who are:

  • younger than the legal drinking age
  • pregnant
  • recovering from alcohol use disorder
  • unable to control how much they drink

People who drink more than the recommended amount may increase their risk of:

  • liver disease
  • cardiovascular disease
  • injuries
  • alcohol use disorders

People taking blood thinners with reduced liver function may accumulate more medication in their bloodstream. Increasing the level of blood thinners in the body can lead to an increased risk of bleeding.

Alcohol consumption may decrease the amount of fibrinogen in the blood. The liver produces this protein, which plays an important role in controlling blood flow and promoting blood clotting.

About 30 grams of alcohol — equating to two standard drinks — can lower fibrinogen levels, which can affect blood clotting.

Alcohol can also affect the action of platelets, which are the components of the blood that form clots. A 2016 review suggests that significant daily alcohol consumption increases the activity of platelets.

As females retain more alcohol in the bloodstream than males, they are at higher risk of developing problems from combining alcohol with medications.

Combining alcohol and medications also carries an increased risk for older adults. The speed at which the body breaks down alcohol slows with age, meaning that alcohol remains in the bloodstream for longer.

Doctors and pharmacists can advise people whether they should avoid or limit their alcohol use while taking blood thinners. The safest way to avoid complications is to refrain from exceeding the recommended daily intake of alcohol.

Some people may initially follow these recommendations but become tempted to increase their alcohol intake over time. Doing so can increase the risk of bleeding.

Bleeding can occur if alcohol interferes with a blood thinner or affects the body’s ability to form a blood clot. People with the following side effects should seek emergency medical attention:

  • heavier menstrual bleeding than usual
  • red or brown urine
  • tar-like or red stools
  • bleeding gums or nosebleed that does not stop
  • brown or bright red vomit
  • red mucus from coughing
  • severe pain
  • unusual bruising
  • a cut that does not stop bleeding
  • a serious fall or blow to the head
  • dizziness
  • weakness

Alcohol may interfere with the action of certain medications, including blood thinners. Doctors recommend that people taking warfarin or drugs containing acetylsalicylic acid limit their intake of alcohol.

Occasional, moderate alcohol use should be safe for most people who are taking blood thinners. However, some people should take additional care. For example, people with liver problems may need to limit their alcohol use more strictly.

A person who is uncertain whether they can drink alcohol while taking blood thinners should speak with a doctor. Anyone who experiences severe symptoms, such as constant bleeding, intense pain, or dizziness, should seek emergency care.