Alcohol & Type 1 Diabetes
1.What you need to know about Alcohol and Type 1 Diabetes
Alcohol is a commonly used recreational drug. Available legally dependent on your age and location. Please check your local laws about alcohol consumption and the legal drinking age.
Like all drugs, alcohol has risks, and it can have negative impacts on your health, wellbeing, and relationships. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to poor decision making and makes you more vulnerable.
When you have Type 1 Diabetes you can still drink alcohol but there is a higher risk of your blood glucose levels becoming unstable. It is important to know about these risks so that you can prevent and avoid dangerous situations.
2. Drinking and Hypoglycaemia
Alcohol can affect your blood glucose levels (BGLs), which may cause hypoglycaemia (‘hypo’).
Different types of alcohol affect blood sugar in different ways. e.g., beer and sweet wine have a lot of carbohydrates which will raise blood sugar. Hard liquor (e.g., whiskey, vodka and gin) can cause hypoglycaemia.
- When you drink alcohol, your liver thinks it is a toxin that needs to be processed.
- Your liver usually releases a small amount of glucose into your bloodstream which your long-acting insulin balances.
- Whilst your liver is busy eliminating alcohol from your body, your liver stops releasing the glucose, which places you at a risk of hypoglycaemia during drinking.
- Your BGLs can first rise from the sugar content in some alcoholic drinks and then lower once your liver starts processing the alcohol.
- You/your friends may not notice the signs and symptoms of a hypo because it can seem the same as being drunk.
- This makes it difficult for you or your friends to detect the hypo and you may miss it. This is dangerous because you may not get the right help fast enough.
- Signs and symptoms of a hypo can include feeling shaky, sweating, dizziness, headaches, crying, grumpiness, hunger, drowsiness, confusion, fast heartbeat and numbness around the lips and fingers.
- If you feel these symptoms, you need to check your BGL. If it is < 4mmol/L / 72 mg/dl immediately treat your hypo by taking snacks in your Hypo Kit.
For more information on how to identify and treat hypoglycaemia, see our article here
3. Tips for drinking alcohol safely with Type 1 Diabetes
- Check your blood glucose; before, during and after drinking.
- As you are more at risk of hypo when you are out especially if you are dancing or more active than usual!
- Make sure at least one person with you knows you have Type 1 Diabetes and how to treat a hypo and to remind you to check your BGL.
- Eat some carbs before drinking and never drink on an empty stomach.
- Continue to eat some carb snacks every few hours while you are drinking.
- Drink slowly, pace yourself and consider drinking one glass of water after every alcoholic drink.
- Learn the carbohydrate content of what you are drinking.
- Premixed drinks can raise your BGL too high after drinking. It is best to avoid these drinks as this makes it difficult to know the sugar content.
- Never stop taking Insulin.
- Check your BGL before going to bed.
- Eat a snack before you sleep and remember that the body continues to process alcohol even after drinking stops!
- Have a ‘Hypo Kit’ or treatment within reach of your bed so you can take it during the night if needed.
- Set an alarm or ask a family member to check your blood glucose levels during the night.
- Stay hydrated the following day and continue to monitor your blood glucose levels and take insulin as usual.
4. When not to drink alcohol
- You should not drink alcohol when it is not your choice to drink, or if you feel pressured into drinking alcohol.
- When your diabetes control is varied and you experience high and lows of BGLs often.
- If you have nerve or eye damage related to your Type 1 Diabetes.
- When you are overweight, it is best to avoid or limit alcohol.
- Never drink on an empty stomach. Always ensure you have had some carbohydrate in a meal or snack before you start drinking.
- Never drink alone. Tell a friend, who knows you have Type 1 Diabetes. They can watch out for you if you decide to drink.
Drugs & Type 1 Diabetes
1. What are drugs?
Drugs are chemical substances that you can put in your body, and it changes how your body or brain works. Drugs can be taken for medical treatment or recreational reasons.
2. Recreational Drugs
Recreational drug use is the use of chemical substances taken for enjoyment. Alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine can be classed as recreational drugs.
A recreational drug is a drug that people take without a medical reason. Some people also call them ‘party drugs’ e.g. marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, and amphetamines. These types of drugs are illegal in most countries around the world.
Please check your local laws and regulations around drug use.
You might feel like you want to try drugs for fun or are pressured into this by people around you.
Recreational drug use has detrimental and harmful effects on your body and mind and negatively impacts on your studies, work, and social life. It could get you into trouble with law enforcement. It can also be an expensive habit which leads to additional financial issues.
If you, or someone you know, have a problem with drugs, there are ways to get help. Please ask your doctors to refer you to local services.
3. Drugs and Type 1 Diabetes
If you take drugs and have Type 1 Diabetes you are more likely to forget to take your insulin dose or forget to eat and drink which can quickly become a deadly situation. This means you are at a greater risk of having high blood glucose levels and developing diabetes ketoacidosis (DKA) or cause your internal organs to shut down. If you have symptoms such as stomach pain, fruity-scented breath, shortness of breath, vomiting or dehydration you need to see a doctor immediately.
You should always remember the following:
- Know what you are taking. Research the effects of the drug before deciding to try it and discuss it with your doctor.
- Do not take something if you are unsure of what the drug is.
- Never take drugs alone. If you take drugs always have someone not taking them with you who you trust, who knows what drug you are taking and that you have Type 1 Diabetes.
- Be in a safe and comfortable environment.
- Never stop taking your insulin or checking blood glucose levels.
We strongly advise that you DO NOT do recreational drugs because they are unsafe and can cause many problems with your health, addiction, work and your relationships with friends and family.
HelloType1 content is based on published, internationally recognised guidelines and then reviewed by local experts to ensure it fits local context. The translation is based on simplified English language to ensure it conveys the safest and clearest possible message in regional languages. Basic insulin and blood glucose testing access is still an issue in the South-East Asia region and our chief aim is to address this. HelloType1 content is not intended to replace the advice of individual healthcare professionals but as a collaborative tool to help them improve the outcomes of disadvantaged people with Type 1 Diabetes in the region.