Alcoholism and Diabetes

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited:  November 17 ,2020 | 4 Sources

There is a link between alcoholism and diabetes and it is often a dangerous one.

In some cases, the link can lead to an early death if the person continues to drink. While some people with blood sugar issues can safely drink in moderation, those who drink excessively will often experience progressing health problems. For some, diabetes alcoholism can be deadly.

The only real way to know if you or a loved one will have severe issues with alcoholism and diabetes is to have a work up done by your health professional. He or she can best detail the health issues that you may experience if you tend to drink.

While it is not likely that you will die from diabetes alcoholism, the early symptoms present themselves as numbness, fatigue, and loss of coordination. In many cases, these signs are ignored. In fact, some people drink more when they feel this way thinking it will help them feel better.

In other cases, these symptoms become so bad that a person can end up in a coma or die after a long bout with alcohol addiction. There is no regulation for how much sugar should be present in the bloodstream due to diabetes.

For those who have developed insulin resistance through heavy drinking, it can take time before good health returns once they stop drinking. This means that if you or a loved one cannot control your compulsion to drink, he or she needs to find a way to stop.

If you or your loved one cannot stop drinking, it may be best for him or her to seek the help of an alcohol rehab clinic. Some states even allow for people with diabetes and alcoholism to enter these types of programs without having these issues reported to insurance companies. If this is not an option, you should take immediate action if:

  • You have blood sugar that exceeds 600 at any time during the day and/or
  • You feel sleepy after only a few drinks and/or
  • You are gaining weight due to excessive alcohol consumption.

People who are under stress often drink more frequently as well as consume larger quantities of liquor when they do drink. This can lead to very low blood sugar levels if it occurs often enough.

Some Common Precautions

Diabetes alcoholism should be especially concerning for any diabetic who also has the following health issues. For these individuals, any amount of alcohol can be dangerous:

  • Any type of damage to the nerves in either the arms or legs.
  • Any sign of diabetic eye disease.
  • Any sign of increased blood pressure.
  • Any sign of increased triglycerides.

One of the most common issues with alcoholism and diabetes is nerve damage. It should be kept in mind that any amount of drinking can lead to nerve damage, in both diabetics and non-diabetics.

For diabetics, however, who also have some form of nerve damage, drinking will often increase the pain, tingling, numbness, or burning sensations that are usually associated with diabetic nerve damage.

Because of the chemical composition of alcohol, those who have high triglycerides should avoid all forms of alcohol, as consumption of even small amounts will increase the levels of triglycerides in the blood system.


If You Take Medication

Diabetes alcoholism will also cause significant problems for those who are taking either oral medication or insulin shots for their disease. In these cases, drinking can lead to low blood sugar levels. Under normal circumstances, when blood sugar levels drop off, the liver will produce glucose to help compensate for the drop.

Alcohol consumption, however, will block glucose production from the liver. The liver will continue to avoid producing glucose until the alcohol has been cleared from the body. This is one of the main reasons persons suffering from alcoholism and diabetes should avoid consuming alcohol.

For those diabetics who are allowed light drinking, the American Diabetes Association recommends never to consume alcohol on an empty stomach. These individual should only drink after they have had something to eat. They should also eat something before they retire to bed after drinking. This can help to prevent a low blood sugar event.

For Type 2 diabetics, those who can control their diabetes with diet and exercise, instead of medication, drinking alcohol will usually be less of a risk factor for low blood sugar events.

Those individuals who are insulin-dependent need to take special care around alcohol consumption due to the fact that large amounts of liquor will lower their blood sugar levels causing hypoglycemia. If this occurs when an insulin shot is due, it could prove fatal if not recognized and treated quickly enough.

The Best Advice - Alcoholism and Diabetes

It is a myth, and a dangerous one, for all diabetics to believe that they can have a few drinks and do so safely. The truth is simple:

  • some diabetics cannot drink alcohol at any level and be safe. Knowing where you stand on this important issue is vital to maintaining good health. 
  • It is also important to remember that many of the symptoms associated with this problem will not be felt immediately, thus making the person believe that they are all right while they are drinking.

Those concerned with alcohol dependence and diabetes should consult with their doctor before drinking. This is the only way to know for sure if a problem may occur.

Once the consult is finished, persons with diabetes alcoholism issues should follow the advice given to the letter. Some health issues, especially the most dangerous ones, can occur very rapidly if their doctor's advice is ignored.


When it comes to the question of diabetes and alcoholism, there is no easy answer. Each person must look deeply into their past and present health issues to determine if they can safely drink a few drinks now and then.

For those who know they cannot consume a drop of alcohol due to their particular case, whether Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes Alcoholism, going out with friends for a couple of drinks should not be an issue as long as the advice given is followed closely. Alcohol consumption by those who have been diagnosed with this disease is always dangerous, even in small quantities.

The best way for diabetics to live a long and happy life is by avoiding this substance completely from their routine.

If you have any questions about diabetes alcoholism, please contact us.

More than alcoholism and diabetes on our alcoholism stages page

Alcoholism home page

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More