Impact on existing health conditions

Alcohol may worsen other health conditions not related to alcohol and temporary reduction or stopping of alcohol use is recommended.

These include:

  • diabetes
  • any disease of the liver which can be worsened by alcohol use
  • infections as heavy alcohol use can impair the immune system
  • mental health conditions
  • sleep disorders as alcohol interferes with the sleep cycle.19

The treatment of alcohol-related liver disease, alcohol-related pancreatitis, alcohol-related mood disorders, alcohol dependence, or brain damage due to alcohol involves stopping alcohol use.

Diabetes mellitus

People with diabetes are advised to discuss alcohol use with their health professional.19 Those with well-controlled diabetes can safely drink alcohol, although the risk of low blood sugar is increased if alcohol is drunk without food and insulin is used.19,73 People with diabetes are advised to monitor blood sugars when drinking and to wear an alert bracelet or similar identification (alerting others of their diabetes in an emergency) because the symptoms of low blood sugar, which is life threatening but quickly treatable, and drunkenness are very similar.74

Mental health conditions

The relationship between alcohol use and mental health conditions is somewhat complicated as heavy or problem drinking can cause some mental health conditions and, conversely, some mental health conditions may cause problematic drinking.43

People with mental health conditions are more likely to use alcohol than those without. Alcohol is strongly associated with social phobias and anxiety, as it can help people with anxiety to feel they function better in social situations, but this is also associated with a risk of alcohol dependence. Alcohol problems are more common in people who are depressed and heavy alcohol use in people with depression is associated with higher risk of suicide, self-harm and poor outcomes. Alcohol use worsens the severity of bipolar disorder. Heavy alcohol use is common among people with schizophrenia and may increase the severity of symptoms.

All people with a mental health condition are advised to discuss their alcohol use with their health professionals, as it may have a negative impact on their illness and/or interact with medication that is taken to treat their illness.19