Why Does Alcohol Act as a Blood Thinner?

How does alcohol affect the blood?

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : JULY 18, 
| 3 Sources

Alcohol is a blood thinner. That's right, alcohol thins your blood and makes it more likely for you to bleed excessively if you get a cut or scrape. Alcohol acts as an anticoagulant in the body, which means that when someone drinks alcohol they are at risk of bleeding heavily from cuts or scrapes on their skin.

The less clear answer to this question is why does alcohol act as a blood thinner? This article will discuss the effects of alcohol on how blood clots, and how it affects the body in general.

What is a Blood Thinner?

Blood thinners are medications that help to prevent a blood clot or thrombus from forming. Blood clots can form when there is damage to the walls of an artery and result in a heart attack, stroke, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism. By preventing the formation of these clots with blood thinners, many people have been able to live healthy lives again. Does that mean you need to drink alcohol to prevent blood clots? Not really—which leads us to…

Why Does Alcohol Act as a Blood Thinner? 

Many people have asked themselves this question. Alcohol is known to cause some serious health issues, such as liver damage and alcoholism, so it's natural to wonder how alcohol can act as a blood thinner. The answer is actually pretty complicated because there are two types of alcohol - ethanol and methanol.

  • Ethanol has been shown in studies that it does not thin the blood at all - instead it helps prevent clots from forming. 
  • Methanol on the other hand will make your blood thinner, which can lead to more bleeding if you're injured or cut yourself.

Can You Replace a Blood Thinner Medication with Alcohol?

Because alcohol thins the blood, a lot of people oftentimes wonder if they could substitute alcoholic beverages instead of a prescribed blood thinner medication. The short answer is, of course, a big NO. Blood thinner medications are manufactured with the highest standards, with strict guidelines and have been formulated to provide expert treatment for a particular medical issue. These features could not be copied by spontaneous consumption of alcoholic drinks.

 Aside from exposing you to a much greater risk of stroke and hemorrhaging in the brain, excessive alcohol consumption is likewise linked with several other health risks, such as:

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Liver disease
  • Breast, mouth, colon, esophageal, throat and liver cancer
  • Birth defects and miscarriage when ingested during pregnancy

To summarize, you shouldn’t consider drinking alcohol to be a reliable or safe substitute for doctor-prescribed blood thinner drugs.

Blood ThinnerPhoto by Testalize.me

Alcohol Increases the Risk of Bleeding

Alcohol can be a double-edged sword. Alcohol is often used to lessen inhibitions, but it also increases the risk of bleeding.

The increased risk is dependent on how much alcohol was consumed and if the person has other medical conditions or takes medications that interact with alcohol.

Alcohol Slows Blood Clotting by Reducing Platelet Function

The release of a new study has shown that alcohol consumption reduces the function of platelets, which are cells in your blood that help with clotting. In contrast to previous studies, this research concludes that even small amounts of alcohol can have an effect on your risk for developing a blood clot.

The researchers found an increased risk for bleeding and other complications from drinking two drinks or less per day. These risks increase as more alcohol is consumed- so be smart about how much you drink!

Alcohol Can Cause an Irregular Heartbeat Which Disrupts Normal Clotting 

It is important to know that alcohol consumption can cause an irregular heartbeat which disrupts normal clotting. The body clots blood in order to stop bleeding and protect the tissues from infection.

Alcohol causes a problem with this process because it interferes with the heart's rhythmic contractions, which can lead to a decrease in blood pressure. This decreases the amount of oxygenated blood being pumped throughout your body, including your brain and other vital organs, leading to potential damage or death by stroke or heart attack!

Drinking Alcohol with Certain Medications May Increase the Effects of Those Drugs, Including Their Ability to Act as a Blood Thinner 

It is always important to check with your doctor before taking any medication, but it may be especially so if you are also drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol can have a number of consequences for medications that are taken, including altering the way in which they work in the body or increasing their effects.

For example, drinking alcohol with certain anti-depressants or pain relievers may cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. It's not just prescription drugs either: over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen can be potentiated by alcohol as well!

Knowing these things beforehand could help save your life someday - and keep your liver healthy too!

The Liver Metabolizes Alcohol and Converts It into Acetaldehyde, Which Also Acts as a Blood thinner  

Your liver does more than just break down alcohol. It also converts it into acetaldehyde, which acts as a blood thinner. Acetaldehyde is a toxic chemical that can be found in many different places. It's usually the result of a reaction between alcohol and sugar, but it can also come from some medications.

Acetaldehyde is known to cause damage to cells and tissues in your body that are important for proper blood clotting such as the lining of your stomach or intestines.

This damage may lead to bleeding ulcers, hemorrhoids, or other gastrointestinal problems. In addition, acetaldehyde may worsen liver disease by interfering with proteins needed for healthy liver function.

What is the Effect of Alcohol with Regards to Its Blood Thinning Properties? 

A blood thinner is a type of medication that makes it easier to stop bleeding. Alcohol, on the other hand, acts as a blood thinner and can lead to excessive bleeding which makes it difficult for doctors or nurses to stop hemorrhaging when someone has been injured. The alcohol will also make people more susceptible to bruising and cuts caused by direct blows or falls.

People who suffer from alcoholism are often unaware they have an addiction problem until their health begins deteriorating significantly because of all the damage already done inside-out from chronic drinking.


Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of bleeding and reduce blood clotting. This means that drinking alcohol with certain medications may make those drugs act as a blood thinner, which increases their effects.

Alcohol also converts into acetaldehyde, which is toxic to cells important for proper blood clotting such as stomach lining or intestines.

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 (LCMHC). 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

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