Alcohol and Diabetes

When I was younger, I socialized with many different groups of people. A few of my good friends were frequent drinkers and consumers of other substances. They seemed to give me a pass for not joining them due to my diabetes. I always told them that, yes, diabetes played a role, but that I’d be passing regardless. They remained convinced, though, I would be a “partier” if it weren’t for my unfortunate condition. After a while I stopped bothering to correct them, and I admit this “free pass” to not indulge helped me float within social circles I might otherwise have not fit into.

When I did drink, I drank smartly, for the most part. On one occasion, however, I overindulged, and luckily good friends who knew I had diabetes tended to me and fed me orange juice to ensure I would not suffer a dangerous low. Needless to say I never drank like that again!

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All of this is background for the topic of today’s entry — drinking, drugs, and diabetes. Drugs and alcohol are complex topics on their own, and adding diabetes to the mix compounds the issue even more. And while the healthiest answer would undoubtedly be to avoid all drugs and take in only moderate levels of alcohol, I think if a very focused, compliant young adult as I was could be swayed, a good number of young adults with diabetes will experience some level of involvement with substances, and therefore it is a good idea to understand them.

The most readily available and only legal item on this list is alcohol. Alcohol has some effects that those with diabetes must be aware of. Most importantly, alcohol often will lead to a lowering effect on blood sugar for a number of hours after consumption (although it can also potentially raise blood sugar as well). In fact, the lowering effect can last up to 24 hours! So checking your blood sugar after drinking with increased frequency is a must, and you should make sure your blood sugar is at least 100 before you go to sleep after consuming alcohol. Of course it is recommended that you drink slowly, eat some food, and keep yourself hydrated, all of which will help lessen the severity of alcohol’s effects.

The other problem with alcohol, of course, is that it can lead to intoxication. Intoxication is dangerous for a very clear reason — you won’t be as sharp and you won’t be able to manage your blood sugar as well as you would sober. This is a big reason you should always sip your drinks.

Besides the fact that most narcotics are illegal, it also is important to understand why drugs pose such a particular problem for those of us with diabetes. First and foremost, narcotics alter the senses! And if the senses are being played with, you’re not going to pick up on low blood sugar the way you normally would. That alone can cause serious problems. But the sensory alterations are only part of the story.

In addition to messing with the senses, narcotics interfere with our ability to understand and reason through problems — even causing severe and intense hallucinations and delusions, destroying our capacity for logical analysis of something like blood sugar patterns. And finally, the physiological effects of narcotics can be diverse and very strong. This is doubly dangerous for anyone living with a chronic medical condition that is already interfering with hormonal and physiological systems!

In conclusion, our number one goal as people with diabetes is to never cross the line at which we begin to lose our ability to monitor and manage our condition. No feeling, no peer acceptance, and no sensory experience is worth that risk. So stay safe, be smart, and always practice moderation!

Tendon pain was found to be much more likely in people with Type 2 diabetes in a new study. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.