How Does Alcohol Affect Blood Sugar?

August 26, 2021

Complications with alcohol and blood sugar are common. They can even occur when people do not realize it. Alcohol can indirectly impact people with diabetes, making it crucial that people with diabetes implement strategies to keep safe while consuming alcohol. 

What is Blood Sugar?

Blood sugar, or blood glucose, refers to sugar that is transported to the cells through the bloodstream. Blood sugar readings refer to the concentration of sugar within your blood at a given time. Sugar comes from the food we eat, and it’s regulated by systems in the body. A well-working system regulates blood sugar levels, so they do not go too low or too high. 

Balanced or healthy blood sugar is called homeostasis. Throughout the day, it is not uncommon for blood sugar levels to vary. This is because blood sugar levels often depend on what and when you eat. When you eat, your body releases a hormone called insulin. 

After eating, your blood sugar levels go up before settling back down. People with diabetes, though, have trouble managing blood sugar levels. Fortunately, most forms of diabetes can be specially managed with insulin. 

Constant high blood pressure is called hyperglycemia. This can happen to people who do not have control over their diabetes. If someone with diabetes uses too much of their medication, they may experience below-normal blood sugar, called hypoglycemia. 

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a long-term health condition that affects the system in which the body turns food into energy. When the body digests food, it turns sugar into usable energy. An important part of this process is a hormone called insulin. The pancreas is responsible for making insulin, which is how glucose gets into our body’s cells. Diabetes is manageable, but if not monitored, it can lead to serious health consequences. 

People with diabetes either do not make sufficient amounts of insulin, or their bodies can’t use insulin the right way. Either way, their body’s cells are starved of energy, causing a glucose build-up and a rise in blood sugar.

Diabetes is one of the top causes of death in America. It can also lead to other health consequences, including cardiovascular disease, blindness, and kidney failure. 

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is typically genetic and not preventable. It’s also caused by an autoimmune reaction that stops the body from making insulin in some circumstances. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed early in life. People with type 1 diabetes take insulin every day to survive. The effect of alcohol on diabetes is dangerous. Therefore, many people with type 1 diabetes avoid alcohol use altogether. 

Type 2 Diabetes 

Over 90% of people with diabetes have type 2. Type 2 usually develops over many years and is most common in overweight and not physically active people. Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented by having a healthy lifestyle and eating healthy food. Many people who develop type 2 diabetes do not experience any symptoms, so it is important to get your blood sugar tested if you are at risk. 

Alcohol and Blood Sugar

That being said, we can take a look at some important questions: What is the effect of alcohol on diabetes? Does alcohol lower blood sugar? 

How Does Alcohol Lower and Raise Blood Sugar?

Alcohol and blood sugar are important factors to consider when consuming alcohol. This is because the liver plays a significant role in regulating blood sugar levels. Becoming familiar with the liver’s function can help you understand the effect of alcohol on diabetes and the effect of alcohol and blood sugar in general. 

Effect of Alcohol on Diabetes

Alcohol can impair the function of the liver, causing it not to release enough glycogen. When you drink, the liver’s ability to release glucose into the bloodstream is affected. This can cause adverse effects since the liver needs to release glycogen to keep blood glucose levels from dropping. If you have diabetes, you may have a higher chance of experiencing hypoglycemia when consuming alcohol. 

When it comes to alcohol and blood sugar, drinking alcohol causes an initial spike, followed by a dangerous decrease. This is often the case because alcohol is high in sugar, which causes the initial spike. Be careful when medicating high blood sugar levels due to alcohol consumption. It is not uncommon for levels to drop suddenly, causing an episode of hypoglycemia. 

For those with diabetes, drinking alcohol increases the risk of both hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Be careful when combining alcohol and blood pressure medication, as most medicines for diabetes are not compatible with drinking alcohol. If you have diabetes and alcohol and blood sugar seem overwhelming, there are steps you can take to stay as safe as possible. 

First off, check your levels before and after drinking. Also, it is crucial to check your levels before going to bed to be sure you are not at risk of hypoglycemia while asleep. 

ADA on Alcohol and Blood Sugar

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has guidelines on alcohol and blood sugar and how it affects those with diabetes. Recommendations from the ADA include: 

  • In terms of alcohol and blood sugar, women should drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per day. Men should limit themselves to two alcoholic beverages per day.
  • People with diabetes should completely avoid alcohol when blood sugar levels are low or if on an empty stomach. 
  • If you have diabetes, you should not count the calories of an alcoholic beverage as a carb choice in your meal plan. 
  • Heavy craft beers and other specific types of alcoholic drinks tend to be more detrimental for people with diabetes. 

According to the ADA, it is essential for those with diabetes to be aware of labels and serving sizes when consuming alcohol. This is because sugar and carb content varies in every alcohol, so be mindful of what you consume to be as safe as possible. 

Alcohol and Blood Sugar When You Don’t Have Diabetes

Many people consume alcohol without an understanding of what they are actually drinking. Though drinking does not typically lead to diabetes, some key ways alcohol and blood sugar interact include: 

  • Alcohol is high in calories and sugar, which can raise concerns for the development of type 2 diabetes. As mentioned, developing diabetes from moderate drinking is not likely, but drinking excessively over time can lead to several health consequences. 
  • While monitoring diet, it is important to factor in calories and sugar from drinking alcohol.
  • People who drink excessively but do not have diabetes can experience low blood sugar since alcohol increases insulin secretion. 

How Long Does Alcohol Lower Blood Sugar?

alcohol and blood sugar
 

Whenever it is in your body, alcohol is affecting your blood sugar. Upon consuming alcohol, you will experience an initial increase in blood sugar. This is occurring as the sugar from alcohol enters your blood. After all of the sugar has been absorbed, blood sugar levels begin to decrease. This process typically takes one to two hours.

Why Does Alcohol Lower Blood Sugar? 

The way that alcohol inhibits the liver’s standard function of releasing glucose sets the stage for a drop in blood sugar. Following alcohol consumption, the body begins processing sugar at a faster rate, which leads to the spike in sugar being metabolized below normal levels. These two factors alone can cause a significant drop in blood pressure, usually following the initial spike after consumption. 

After absorbing the sugar from alcohol, the body will begin to use the sugar. This results in a decrease in blood pressure as the liver stops the release of more sugar. During this process, blood sugar levels are artificially low since alcohol keeps the liver from functioning normally. After about 12 hours, most of the alcohol is eliminated, and the liver begins to function normally, releasing sugar.  

In most cases, mild to moderate amounts of alcohol can increase blood sugar. Drinking excessively will decrease the level, though, sometimes causing it to drop extremely low. This would be extremely dangerous for people with type 1 diabetes. 

Alcohol and Blood Sugar: Does Quitting Help?

Quitting drinking will result in a more typical blood glucose level. After a short period, blood sugar levels will stabilize, and you will experience several positive health changes. One way that the body eliminates excess sugar is by turning it into fat. When you hear the term “beer belly,” it typically refers to a type of obesity that occurs from drinking alcohol, beer specifically.  

The Relationship Between Diabetes, Alcohol, and Blood Sugar

There is continued debate on whether drinking alcohol moderately can increase the risk for diabetes. However, studies and evidence show that alcohol use does increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is because alcohol consumption can:

  • Cause an increase in weight, a significant risk factor for diabetes
  • Cause damage to the pancreas over time, which is where insulin is made
  • Lower the body’s sensitivity to insulin
  • Cause damage to the liver, which affects its ability to regulate blood sugar levels

Moderating alcohol use is the best way to avoid alcohol-related issues. The best way for people to avoid potential issues involving alcohol and blood sugar is to avoid alcohol use altogether.

Get Help at Nashville Recovery Center

If you have issues with alcohol and blood sugar, it is crucial you get help immediately. The effect of alcohol on diabetes can be extremely dangerous. At Nashville Recovery Center, we aim to treat any and everyone. If you have diabetes and an addiction issue, we can help. Please call us today for more information.

The Dangers of Drug Use at Music Festivals

August 26, 2021

How Do Drugs and Music Play Into Each Other?

Drug use at music festivals is not a new concept. However, festival drugs and festival culture have grown in popularity in recent years. Drugs like LSD and MDMA have a history of being paired with music festivals and other events involving music. Using festival drugs comes with risks, so it’s essential to understand drug use at music festivals and their effects. 

Each year, many people overdose at music festivals. Many of these deaths could have been prevented had the proper precautions been taken. Music festivals are meant to be an exciting, fun time, but understanding the relationship between music festivals and drugs could help make festivals a safer environment.

Growing Popularity of Music Festivals

Music festivals are the perfect place for people to see and celebrate their favorite musicians. The music festival experience does not only involve music, but it also offers camping, food, and art in many forms. Music festivals are a place to enjoy time with friends, meet new people, and dance. 

Many music festivals have seen rapid growth in electronic dance music (EDM). This genre of music generates billions of dollars in revenue each year. Substances referred to as EDM drugs are popular at events such as Ultra Music Festival and Coachella. EDM drugs usually refer to MDMA, ketamine, and LSD.

Music Festival Statistics

According to a 2016 study, more people than ever are attending music festivals. Billboard reported that 32 million people go to at least one music festival in the United States each year. As mentioned, EDM is an increasingly popular market, generating massive amounts of revenue and fans each year. 

In terms of drug use at music festivals, a survey found that, on average, almost 75% of attendees reported substance use in the past year. The report showed cannabis being the most popular at 63.9%, ecstasy (59.8%), and cocaine (34.1%). 

Common Festival Drugs

drugs at music festivals
 

Drug use at music festivals can be traced back to legendary events such as Woodstock in 1969. Festival drugs continue to be prevalent even decades later. For some people, music festivals are places to experiment, party, and use substances to intensify their experience. This likely occurs because festivals are meant to be a sensory experience for everyone involved. Therefore, it makes it a great place to use drugs for some. Common festival drugs include: 

Alcohol

Alcohol is common at most public events. It can help people relax and lower their inhibitions. Drinking at a music festival may help people socialize, dance, and lighten up. The risks of alcohol are often underplayed, and its dangers seem far fetched. Most festivals are all-day events, and to keep safe, it is crucial to understand your limits and stay hydrated. Overdrinking can lead to severe health consequences. 

MDMA/Ecstasy/Molly

Molly is another name for MDMA. Molly is a synthetic psychoactive drug that enhances sensory perception, distorts time, and increases energy. Molly is often referred to as an EDM drug because of its popularity at EDM festivals. Many people use MDMA to experience a feeling of connectedness with those around them, as it can also increase emotional warmth.

Ecstasy is often considered more dangerous than MDMA since it contains many other substances. Ecstasy typically contains MDMA as well as several other substances, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, or bath salts. In large doses, both MDMA and ecstasy can cause severe consequences for users. 

Marijuana

Marijuana, also known as pot, cannabis, or weed, is a plant that can be ingested or smoked in various ways. Marijuana’s primary psychoactive ingredient is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is known to cause euphoria, relaxation, and in some people, paranoia and anxiety. It’s not uncommon for users to experience memory issues, distorted sense of time, or difficulty solving problems while high on marijuana. Marijuana is potentially the most common substance used at music festivals besides alcohol. 

Cocaine/Crack

Both cocaine and crack are stimulant drugs that have a large number of side effects. Using cocaine or crack can cause extreme feelings of happiness or energy and hypersensitivity to sensory input. Many users also experience paranoia or other undesirable effects. Cocaine use, especially at music festivals, often requires re-dosing to avoid its crashing effect. These stimulating effects can have short- and long-term health consequences.  

Opioids

Opioids refer to many prescription painkiller medications, as well as heroin. Using opioids produces feelings of reduced pain, relaxation, and extreme euphoria. Taking opioids outside of prescription guidelines is extremely dangerous and can lead to addiction. Opioids have some of the highest addiction potentials out of all substances. Unfortunately, many drug-related music festival deaths include opioid use.

LSD

LSD, commonly referred to as acid, is a hallucinogenic drug that causes users to feel, see, and even hear things that aren’t real. High doses of LSD can lead to users losing touch with reality, which can be dangerous in some situations. It is not uncommon for LSD users to experience rapid mood swings as well. 

Mushrooms

Mushrooms, sometimes called magic mushrooms or shrooms, are another popular drug at music festivals. Mushroom’s primary psychoactive compound is called psilocybin, which produces mood-altering and hallucinations effects. Ingesting mushrooms can lead to extreme paranoia and anxiousness. 

Adderall

Adderall is an amphetamine typically used in treating symptoms of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). Some individuals at music festivals use substances like Adderall to allow them to continue partying through the night. Adderall can cause severe health issues, especially if taken in large doses. 

Risks of Drug Use at Music Festivals

Festival drugs bring about several risks for a number of reasons. Common adverse effects seen in drug users at music festivals include:

  • Hyperthermia
  • Heatstroke
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Cardiovascular complications
  • Poor judgment
  • Risk of accidents
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Overhydration

Many of the mentioned health conditions have to do with the festival environment. These complications can be alleviated by taking precautions and making positive health decisions. Unfortunately, drugs can mask the symptoms people may have if they are experiencing a health issue. For instance, while intoxicated, it is more difficult to understand how dehydrated you may be. This goes for other substances as well. Festival drugs can exacerbate these issues and even make them harder to see coming. 

Harm Reduction: Drug Use at Music Festivals

Music festivals implement various harm reduction practices to keep people as safe as possible. It is essential for festival-goers to take advantage of these practices, especially if they’re considering experimenting with substances. Some harm reduction services include:

  • Free water and hydration stations
  • On-site medical services
  • Limited alcohol sales to reduce potential alcohol poisoning
  • Amnesty boxes where people can discard illegal drugs without being arrested
  • Reduced hours to avoid overexertion
  • Increased security and staff to help limit dangerous situations
  • Substance use education 
  • Kiosks that provide free condoms, earplugs, and other drug information flyers

Pill Testing

Pill testing is another form of risk reduction offered at most music festivals. Testing sites offer free chemical tests to ensure that the substances they plan on ingesting do not have any surprise substances present. Pill testing sites are a no-questions-asked service and are intended to keep people as safe as possible. 

It is not uncommon for people to find that the molly they planned on taking has traces of bath salts within it. This could cause more severe consequences than just taking molly alone. Some believe that pill testing encourages drug use. However, since some people will most likely use festival drugs regardless, it makes sense to provide a service that makes it even slightly safer. 

Staying Safe Around Festival Drugs

Some additional practices to make drug use at music festivals safer include: 

  • Use the buddy system. Look out for your friends and decide on meeting spots in case the group gets separated.
  • Become familiar with the layout of the venue. Take note of where medical stations are in case you or a friend needs help. 
  • Stay hydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water and replenish electrolytes throughout the day. Take advantage of free water stations. 
  • Give your body a break every now and then. Make sure to eat and drink water when necessary. Heat and exertion can cause many medical issues. 
  • Do not be too cool for drug education. Ensure that you and your friends know what signs and symptoms of health issues look like. 

Recognizing an Overdose or Emergency

Most drugs have similar warning signs when it comes to overdose. Knowing what these signs look like could save a life at a music festival. Common symptoms of overdose include:

  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Teeth grinding
  • Racing pulse
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Sweating
  • Seizures 
  • Extreme paranoia

If you see any of these signs or symptoms, get medical help immediately. For a stimulant overdose, help the individual stay calm while putting them into a lying position. Protect their head and clear their airway. If someone is experiencing an opioid overdose, it’s best to administer Narcan or find someone who can. In the meantime, rub their sternum with your knuckles and begin rescue breathing. Plug their nose and give one breath into their mouth every five to seven seconds until help arrives. 

Get Help If You Have an Issue With Festival Drugs

Bad drug experiences are often inevitable. To avoid a bad drug experience, it’s best to avoid drugs as a whole. Long-term drug use can cause severe mental and physical health issues. If you or a loved one are struggling with drug use, please reach out and give us a call.