Coumadin -- also known by its generic name warfarin -- is a blood-thinning medication. Your physician may prescribe Coumadin if you are at risk for or have experienced a heart attack, stroke or blood clots. While Coumadin can be a life-saving medication, it also is associated with many adverse drug and food reactions, one of which is alcohol. Knowing how alcohol can affect you if you are taking Coumadin can help prevent life-threatening side effects.
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Alcohol and Coumadin can have adverse effects because alcohol is a natural blood thinner. If you drink excess amounts of alcohol, it can heighten the effects of Coumadin by making your blood too thin. This increases your risk for bleeding not only externally, but also internally. For this reason, alcohol should be consumed with caution while taking the medication.
Taking Coumadin does not mean you must limit alcohol entirely -- only that you must drink it in moderation. While you should always speak to your physician to establish an appropriate range, drinking between 1 and 2 alcohol servings should be permissible while taking Coumadin. Because taking Coumadin requires a tight control over your blood sugar range, changing your drinking habits completely could affect the way Coumadin works in your body. If you currently drink in moderate amounts, notify your physician as changing your diet may be harmful to your suggested medication dosage.
Because some level of alcohol use is permissible, patients taking Coumadin can use the excuse of “saving up” drinks to binge drink. Although you are permitted one to two drinks per day, this does not mean you can add those drinks up and drink this many in one night without experiencing adverse effects. This increases your risk for internal bleeding, which can be deadly. The Cedar Rapids Healthcare Alliance recommends exercising caution on holidays and social events where it may be easier to exceed your recommended alcohol intake.
Chronic Alcohol Use
While drinking excess alcohol can heighten Coumadin’s effect, chronic excess alcohol use -- such as alcoholism -- can have the reverse effect, according to eMedTV. If you drink more than two drinks per day every day or have trouble controlling your alcohol use, disclose this to your physician. Chronic excess alcohol intake can lead to increased risk for blood clotting and internal bleeding, lessening Coumadin’s effects in thinning your blood.