Although consuming alcohol when taking statins has no direct effects on health, both statins and alcohol can impair liver function. Mixing the two also has other associated risks.

According to the latest available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 28% of adults in the United States over the age of 40 years take a cholesterol-lowering medication.

Of these individuals, about 93% take a statin. Statins work by reducing how much cholesterol the liver produces and increasing its clearance from the blood.

In this article, we discuss the risks of consuming alcohol while taking statins. We also look at the other potential side effects and risks associated with taking statins.

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Although taking the two together has no direct risks, both statins and alcohol can impair liver function and cause tissue damage. Mixing alcohol and statins can, therefore, increase the burden on the liver, potentially raising the risk of liver damage or disease.

Heavy alcohol consumption can also increase the risk and severity of several side effects associated with statins, including:

  • muscle problems
  • liver problems
  • kidney problems

Statins may also worsen diseases associated with excessive or chronic alcohol consumption. In a 2017 study, taking the statin atorvastatin (Lipitor) worsened symptoms of alcohol-induced cerebral artery constriction in rats.

People taking statins may still be able to consume some alcohol, but not more than 14 units per week.

Before taking statins, it is important to talk with a doctor about alcohol consumption habits and how much alcohol is safe to drink.

It is often not safe for people with liver disease or dysfunction to take statins.

A doctor may run blood tests to assess someone’s liver health before prescribing statins. In some cases, they may also run blood tests 3 and 12 months after someone starts taking a statin to ensure that the drug is not harming their liver.

Most people tolerate statins well. However, these medications do have side effects in some people. These can include:

Musculoskeletal side effects

Nearly all statins can cause muscle problems, such as:

  • Myalgia: Muscle pain is the most common side effect of statins, affecting 1–10% of people using these medications.
  • Myotosis: Some people may experience muscle inflammation.
  • Rhabdomyolysis: Although this condition affects less than 0.1% of people taking statins, it is the most serious adverse effect. It occurs when muscle tissues die and release the protein myoglobin, which can block tubing in the kidney and cause kidney failure. Possible signs and symptoms include:
    • muscle pain, cramps, or aches
    • dark or tea-colored urine
    • unexplained exhaustion or weakness
    • dehydration

Liver inflammation

Around 1–3% of people who take statins may experience elevated liver enzyme levels, which often cause no symptoms. This side effect tends to occur within the first few months of taking statins and typically does not result in long-term liver damage.

When liver failure does occur, symptoms include:

  • yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes
  • upper abdominal pain
  • unexplained exhaustion or weakness
  • dark-colored urine
  • reduced appetite

Type 2 diabetes

Statins disrupt insulin-signaling pathways and can affect the function of beta cells in the pancreas, which create and release insulin. Statins may also increase insulin resistance.

By some estimates, about 9% of people who take statins are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes after taking them for 4 years. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot properly use insulin.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • increased thirst and urine production
  • unexplained exhaustion
  • unexplained weight loss
  • increased hunger
  • blurry vision
  • poor circulation
  • reduced healing time from infections or wounds

Kidney side effects

Statins can increase the risk of developing rhabdomyolysis, which can cause kidney damage and, eventually, kidney failure.

Statins can also increase the risk of developing benign proteinuria, a condition in which there is excess protein in the urine.

Symptoms include:

  • foamy, bubbly, or frothy-looking urine
  • swelling in the feet, hands, feet, abdomen, or face
  • urine that is a different color than normal or has an unusual smell


Taking statins may increase the risk of developing acute pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. Symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:

  • mild-to-severe pain that begins slowly or suddenly in the upper abdomen, can spread to the back, and lasts for several days
  • fever
  • fast heartbeat
  • swelling or tenderness in the abdomen
  • nausea and vomiting

People using statins have reported a few other side effects, but more research is necessary to understand their prevalence and severity.

Other potential side effects associated with statins include:

  • peripheral neuropathy, which is pain, weakness, and numbness in the hands and feet
  • irritability
  • mood changes
  • cognitive dysfunction, which can involve memory loss or impairment, confusion, and amnesia
  • shortness of breath
  • interstitial lung disease, which can cause shortness of breath, mild chest pain, dry cough, and reduced appetite

Learn more about the risks and uses of statins here.

Statins can also interact with several other medications or foods, increasing the risk of negative side effects. These substances include:

  • grapefruit juice
  • diclofenac (Voltaren)
  • amiodarone (Cordarone)
  • protease inhibitors
  • azole antifungals
  • macrolide antibiotics
  • cyclosporin (Gengraf)
  • metronidazole (Flagyl)
  • gemfibrozil (Lopid)
  • verapamil (Calan)
  • tacrolimus (Prograf)
  • colchicine (Colcrys)
  • sildenafil (Viagra)
  • fibrates

Most people tolerate statins fairly well. When people do experience side effects from taking statins, they are typically minor and resolve once a person stops taking the statins or changes their dosage.

More serious complications can sometimes occur. A person should contact a doctor if any of the following symptoms occur:

  • unexplained muscle pain or weakness
  • darkened or tea-colored urine
  • yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes
  • upper abdominal pain
  • loss of appetite
  • unexplained exhaustion

Statins and alcohol do not directly interact. However, heavy alcohol consumption can increase the risk of several side effects associated with statins — in particular, liver damage and muscle problems.

People who drink alcohol regularly should discuss their consumption habits with a doctor before taking statins to reduce the risk of complications.