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Drinking, Smoking & Drug Use

Part of becoming an adult means making responsible decisions.�� It is a known fact that some people (with our without diabetes) choose to drink alcohol and/or do drugs.  While we are certainly not encouraging the use of alcohol or drugs, it is important for a person with diabetes to be well educated on how alcohol and drugs can impact blood sugar and diabetes management so that smart and safe choices are made.

What You Need to Know About Drinking Alcohol

Alcohol is a "Legal Depressant" and causes the following:

  • Significant increase in risk of hypoglycemia (your liver is busy processing alcohol and is not as good at putting out stored sugar when you blood sugar starts to drop) 
  • Impaired judgment and unable to make good decisions (short-term)
  • Impaired coordination and reaction time (short term) 
  • Impaired vision (short term)
  • Chronic liver disease, liver failure (long term)
  • Increased risk for heart disease and stroke (long term) 
  • Increased risk of some cancers (long term)

Overall it is SAFEST not to drink; however if you do drink know this:

  • Do not bolus for alcohol
  • Use sugar free mixers
  • Never drink on an empty stomach and always eat while drinking
  • Limit to 1 or 2 drinks in total
  • Test blood glucose throughout
  • Ensure that friends are aware of both drinking and diabetes
  • Consume bedtime snack (do not bolus) or put on a temp rate (for pumpers)

What You Need to Know about Tobacco & Nicotine

  • Damages small blood vessels and can lead to kidney and nerve disease. People with diabetes are already at risk for this damage and therefore your risk is MUCH higher if you have diabetes and smoke cigarettes.
  • Can increase your blood sugars and make diabetes more difficult to manage.
  • Can increase your risk for heart attacks and strokes.
  • Use in men can lead to impotence.


What to Do if you have Diabetes and use Tobacco or Other Nicotine Products

Stop if already started- It is NEVER too late to quit!

  • Cold turkey does not usually work 
  • Seek help from health care team 
  • Patches and gum (Nicotine Replacement Therapy)
  • Oral medications
  • CT QuitLine, 1-866-END-HABIT
  • NY Quit line: 1-866-NY-QUITS

Other Illegal Drugs and Abuse of Prescription Drugs:

All can impact diabetes and impair decision making.  Using drugs can make managing all aspects of your life difficult, including diabetes. This means you could easily forget to take your insulin or test and treat a low blood sugar.  Poor blood sugar control and diabetes management put you at risk for the short term and long term complications associated with high and low blood sugars. 

If you or someone you care about is using these drugs you will typically notice:

  • Change in personality
  • Change in physical appearance
  • Change in school performance


If I Decide to Use Recreational Drugs, What Do I Need to Know?

  • Check blood sugar every 2-3 hours 
  • Refer to sick day plan (link to sick days under diabetes education) if you don’t feel well. 
  • Check for ketones if BG >300mg/dl 
  • Drug use and diabetes can be a lethal combination and may cause death. This is because it is not possible to take care for your diabetes safely when you use drugs
  • If you are taking drugs please speak to a medical professional and consider going to rehab. Having diabetes and using drugs is simply not safe.