Actos and Alcohol

by on July 27, 2012

Patients taking Actos (pioglitazone) often ask whether it is safe to drink alcohol while taking this medication. Most people are aware about the possible interaction between alcohol and certain medications, but are quite unsure if combining alcohol and antidiabetic medications is alright. In general, it is not known whether alcohol interacts with Actos. Although this combination is not known to cause serious drug interactions, alcohol is often contraindicated in diabetics.

Alcohol Health Risks

For most patients taking Actos for the control of diabetes, alcohol use is contraindicated primarily because of its potential health risks and not actually because of possible drug interactions. Many health experts recommend diabetics to avoid drinking alcohol because it can worsen diabetes complications. Some of its possible effects include the following:

  • Consuming moderate amounts of alcohol may increase the blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). When taken in excess, alcohol can cause a sudden drop in blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia), possibly into dangerous levels.
  • Some alcoholic beverages such as sweet wine and beer contain high levels of carbohydrates that can raise blood sugar levels.
  • For some people, alcohol can stimulate appetite, which can cause overeating and problems controlling blood glucose levels.
  • Alcohol can interfere with the action of other oral antidiabetic drugs or insulin, probably making them less effective. Take note that Actos is often used along with other antidiabetics from different drug classes.
  • Alcohol can increase blood triglyceride levels, as well as blood pressure.

The symptoms of drinking too much alcohol often resemble that of low blood sugar, such as dizziness, loss of concentration, and sleepiness. You can mistakenly confuse low blood sugar with drunkenness. Given all these health risks, it is best to avoid consuming alcohol beverages while being treated for diabetes.

Safe Drinking Guidelines

To avoid possible health risks, you should consult your healthcare provider regarding your alcohol consumption. Check your blood glucose levels before, during, and after consuming alcoholic beverages, as well as before you sleep. Foods help slowdown the body’s absorption of alcohol, so do not drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Never overindulge on alcoholic beverages. The American Diabetes Association recommends limiting the intake of alcohol to no more than two drinks per day for men, and one for women.

Always have glucose tablets or hard candy ready in case you experience sudden low blood sugar. Do not engage in physical exercise while drinking alcohol as it can significantly increase your risk of hypoglycemia.

Finally, you should ask yourself three basic questions before you decide whether to drink alcohol or not:

  • Is your blood sugar level or diabetes under control?
  • Do you have other health conditions, apart from diabetes, that alcohol can make worse?
  • Do you the effects of alcohol on you and your diabetes?

If you answered ‘yes’ to all questions and your healthcare provider does not specifically contraindicate alcohol, you may be able to safely drink moderate amounts of alcohol while on Actos.