Q and A

Question

Can I drink alcohol with ARVs?

I have started ART a month ago. Before that I used to drink alcohol quite often.

Since I started ART, I try to not drink. But, I still want to.

Can I drink alcohol?

Answer

In general, one or two drink is likely to be fine, if this is something you enjoy. There are no interactions between alcohol and ARVs.

More heavy drinking however can lead to missing doses of your ARVs. This can cause your treatment to fail. This means that if you have a drink, make sure you find a way to not miss any of your meds. Moderation is important.

Two other concerns are important for people living with HIV:

  1. Alcohol can also make efavirenz side effects worse, in particular feeling dizzy, so be careful about this.
  2. Alcohol can make hepatitis or other liver complications progress more quickly. Alcohol is not recommended if you have hepatitis. See this information from the guide to HIV and hepatitis C:
    http://i-base.info/guides/hepc/alcohol

The NHS website has a lot of information about alcohol. This is important whether you are HIV positive or HIV negative. See:
http://www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/Alcohol/Pages/Alcoholhome.aspx, and
http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/Effectsofalcohol.aspx

In the UK, the NHS recommendations for alcohol are:

  • Men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day. This is only 1-2 pints of lager – ie one strong drink.
    http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/alcohol-units.aspx
  • Women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day
  • If you’ve had a heavy drinking session, avoid alcohol for 48 hours.

“Regularly” means drinking this amount every day or most days of the week.

…………

This question from 2008 was updated in September 2014.


Information on this website is provided by treatment advocates and offered as a guide only. Decisions about your treatment should always be taken in consultation with your doctor.

19 comments

  1. Hi,

    Alcohol will not affect the way your meds work. This is as long as it doesn’t affect you taking your meds. It is important to take your meds everyday. If you do not you can risk developing resistance. This means that your meds will not work anymore.

    You can find more information here:
    http://i-base.info/guides/starting/adherence

  2. anna

    I’m on ARVs and drink alcohol when i’m stressed. What are the effects?

  3. Ransley

    When should someone start treatment?

  4. Hi Dr Tshipama

    Thank you for your comment. The caution for excess alcohol is very important. It is also sometimes difficult to know when light or moderate drinking becomes more excessive. In some countries the complications from access alcohol mean that people are supposed to stop or limit drinking alcohol as part of ARV treatment.

    However, there is no direct interaction between alcohol and ARVs. Alcohol does not increase or decrease the levels of ARVs in the blood for example. But alcohol can affect adherence and forgetting of being late with your meds will cause treatment to fail. This has been reported in several studies.

    It is good that you are concerned about your patients long-term health.

  5. Dr Willy Lubuya Tshipama

    Beer and ARVs causes damage to the body. It’s not right for me as an health worker to encorage my clients to mix beer and ARVs as long as it can have some bad effects on the body. :)

  6. Dr Tshipama

    I personally think its right to caution our patients about ARVs and alcohol. As long as beer can cause a damage to any body system, it is difficult to quantify what is moderate and what is excess. As health workers, we need to discourage the use of alcohol in someone taking ARVs.

  7. Nana

    How much does it cost to do a bone marrow transplant and does it realy cure HIV?

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