Combining excessive amounts of alcohol and
insulin is dangerous. If you drink a lot of
alcohol, or drink alcohol on an empty stomach,
you are more likely to have a hypo, so you
will need extra carbohydrate.
If you are drunk you may forget to eat your
planned snack, which can make a hypo more
severe. Alcohol also lowers your blood glucose
levels, this can make hypos more likely. People
might think you’re drunk if you smell of alcohol
during a hypo. You may not get the help you need to treat your hypo, which could be dangerous.
This doesn’t mean you can’t drink; you just need to know what to do, the information below should help you with this.
If you’re under 18, it is against the law:
• for someone to sell you alcohol
• to buy or try to buy alcohol
• for an adult to buy or try to buy alcohol for you
• to drink alcohol in licensed premises (eg a pub or restaurant)
However, if you’re 16 or 17 and accompanied by an adult, you can drink (but not buy) beer, wine or cider with a meal. You can get more information on alcohol and the laws for young people at www.gov.uk
For those of you who are 18 or over, the good news is that alcohol and diabetes can mix but like everything else this just takes a bit of consideration.
How many units of alcohol?
Keep to the recommended limits for alcohol as too much alcohol isn’t good for anyone’s health.
• 3 units per day for a man
• 2 units per day for a women
What is a unit of alcohol?
In Scotland all employees serving alcohol must undertake training that allows them to inform any customers about units of alcohol and the relationship between units and the strength of different alcoholic drinks. So if you are ever unsure about how strong a drink is them just ask.
As a guide:
• A standard pub measure (25ml) of vodka provides one unit.
• A 125ml glass of wine (9 per cent) also provides one unit.
• Half a pint of beer, lager or cider (3.5 per cent) provides one unit, but be aware that many beer and wines often have higher alcohol content than this.
• One bottle of Smirnoff Ice or Bacardi Breezer provides 1.5 units.
Hypos and Alcohol
Alcohol stops your body releasing glucose into your bloodstream, which is needed if you have a hypo. After a few drinks you might be less aware of your hypo symptoms. The increased risk of having a hypo can continue for some time after you stop drinking, too.
Tell your friends
Make sure the friends you are with know about your diabetes and what to do if you go hypo. Wearing some ID will help if you get separated from them. You could be stopped and questioned about your injecting and testing equipment when you are out, so your ID will help then too.
Hypo symptoms can be mistaken for drunkenness, and if you are acting a bit strange the police might get involved, so your ID is even more important.
Mighty DUK's Top Tip for drinking alcohol
• Eat before you go drinking, alcohol always affects the body more adversely without food.
• Eat while or just after drinking, you could always grab a sandwich, a packet of crisps or some chips.
• Eat before you go to bed, alcohol stays in your system for a while after you stop drinking. Something like cereal or toast is good and drink plenty of water (or anything sugar free)
What about low sugar beers and lagers?
Low-sugar beers and lagers tend to be higher in alcohol. So, it is best to stick to ordinary strength beers and lagers. Also, it’s a good idea to alternate alcohol with a sugar-free drink, too.
You should never drink and drive. Remember, alcohol lowers blood glucose levels, so if you are taking insulin for your diabetes, drinking alcohol can make you more likely to have a hypo.
Mighty DUK's Top Tips for the morning after
• Eat when you get up, always have some breakfast if you’ve had a particularly big session the night before, even if you don’t feel like it. This will help your blood glucose control and might (only might) make you feel better.
• Check your blood glucose levels, this is really important as some hangover symptoms (such as headache, feeling sick, sweating and shaking) are similar to the symptoms you get with a hypo.
• No matter how awful you feel, if it’s a hypo you need to treat it straight away. Don’t ignore it. Remember to keep taking your insulin.
You can read more info about diabetes and alcohol at: www.diabetes.org.uk
Tempted to kick the habit?
Some diabetes clinics run special programmes for people who want to give up. Find out if yours does – and don’t be afraid to tell them you smoke, they’ll have seen hundreds of people like you before. You can also get more information and support at
Smokeline: 0800 84 84 84 www.canstopsmoking.com
There are many different drugs around, some legal, some illegal. Remember, if you are tempted to try legal or illegal highs they will impair your ability to tell if your sugars are too low or too high and could put you at risk.
Everyone should avoid illegal drugs, but if you must use them, don’t use them alone and let one of your mates know what you are doing and make sure he/she knows what to do if you become unwell.
Drugs are split in to three main categories downers, uppers and hallucinogens.
Downers (or depressants)
e.g. alcohol, sleeping pills, heroin, methadone, cannabis
Downers slow your body down, including your thought processes, heart rate and breathing. Alcohol makes the blood glucose level drop, so there is a risk of going hypo.
Possible effects on your diabetes
The relaxing effect of downers might mean that you forget about or can’t be bothered to take your insulin or do a blood test.
The first dose of heroin and methadone can cause vomiting which might upset your blood glucose. And if you inject, especially if your diabetes isn’t well managed, you run the risk of skin infections that won’t heal properly.
Uppers (or stimulants)
e.g. speed, ecstasy, cocaine
Uppers give you a high, and if you’re dancing continuously, this can cause dehydration as your body loses fluid. But once the high wears off, you can feel depressed, irritable and tired.
Possible effects on your diabetes
Uppers can suppress appetite and this can cause hypos, especially if combined with dancing. It’s really important to eat carbohydrate based foods regularly or drink sugary non-alcoholic drinks. And drink plenty of water – approximately a pint an hour.
e.g. cannabis (skunk), LSD, magic mushrooms
Cannabis is probably the most common, and makes you feel happy, relaxed and sociable. However, after taking it many people feel anxious and uneasy, or even light headed, faint and sick.
It can make you feel quite “out of it” and also give you the munchies. Cannabis increases the heart rate and can affect blood pressure.
If you use cannabis frequently, it can reduce a man's sperm count and suppress ovulation in women. If you’re pregnant, smoking cannabis may harm your baby.
LSD, and magic mushrooms, cause hallucinations (“trips”) which can last up to 12 hours. They might be unpleasant or even terrifying, and you can have flashbacks to them in the following few weeks and months.
While there’s no evidence to suggest that LSD causes long-term damage to the body, it could have serious, longer term implications, if you have a history of mental health problems, and could also trigger a previously undetected mental health problem.
Possible effect on your diabetes
Cannabis can make you feel ‘spaced out’ and forgetful so you might forget to take your insulin. If you the get the ‘munchies’, it may cause your blood glucose level to rise.
As the effects of LSD can last for a while, you may forget to take your insulin or eat properly, which can cause hypers or hypos.
Mighty DUK's Top Tips for staying safe
• Remember – no drug is a safe drug. There are risks associated with any drug you take.
• Some drugs are illegal and there are heavy penalties for possessing and supplying them. Even giving drugs to your mate is seen as supplying in law.
• Make sure you have some diabetes I.D. on you, and that the people you’re with know about your diabetes.
• Have regular soft drinks & water, if you’re clubbing.
• Have some carbohydrate based food before you go out and when you get in. You might also need to snack during the evening.
• It’s OK to say no to drink or drugs. Not everyone takes them.
• Don’t mix drink and drugs.
• Make sure you know exactly what you’re taking.
• Make sure you keep sufficient money to get yourself home at the end of the evening.
You can learn loads more about all kinds of drugs at: www.talktofrank.com
"Smoking increases your chance of heart disease, stroke and cancer and narrows your blood vessels, and healthy blood vessels are very important for people with diabetes."