MS, Alcohol, and Me
Last updated: March 2023
During a typical week, other than hanging in my yard with my dog, I manage to get out of the house about one to two times. When I do get to venture past my borders, it’s usually to go attempt to be social and meet up with some friends for a few drinks at a local watering hole. Yes, me, a disabled person with Multiple Sclerosis likes to go out and have a couple of alcoholic beverages. That fact can make some people a little skittish and a bit judgemental, too. So, let’s talk about MS and alcohol!
The concerns about drinking alcohol with MS
Obviously, drinking with MS can seem troubling to some. After all, many people with MS already have issues with their balance and coordination. Becoming inebriated doesn’t typically improve those, so getting a bit tipsy with your MS symptoms can be downright dangerous. Another serious issue with alcohol consumption and MS has to do with medication. Mixing alcohol and certain medications can be extremely dangerous. It's important to know and heed any warnings when it comes to mixing alcohol and various medications. Aside from those concerns, drinking too much is bad for your health in a lot of ways; that you likely already know. To put it simply, doing something that has a negative impact on our overall health can absolutely have a negative effect on our MS as well.
The social aspects
MS is a lonely disease; it greatly affects people’s ability to socialize. It can also negatively impact the chances for people to find some enjoyment. If having a couple drinks is pleasant to you and maybe aids in your socializing or your enjoyments of life, then that's okay. Remember, you never need to apologize for having some fun, trust me, you deserve it. You certainly don’t need alcohol to be social or have fun, but, for some people it is helpful, and that’s OK.
Moderation and triggers
Like most things in life, moderation is key. When I am talking about alcohol here, I am talking about moderate consumption. When I say it’s OK to have a couple drinks, it’s important not to overdo it, just like it’s important to be aware of the impact it may have on your medication. When you live with multiple sclerosis, another significant aspect to living well is knowing what your triggers are, knowing what environmental conditions might cause a temporary increase in the severity of your symptoms. There are a great many people who I’ve spoken to that list alcohol as one of those triggers.
My experience with drinking and MS
Drinking isn’t a daily thing for me; I suppose I’d describe myself as a “social” drinker, usually just during those rare moments I get out of the house and can meet folks for happy hour or some similar activity. I do admit, though, that sometimes a couple turns into a few, that turns into several. That isn’t too often though. I do feel compelled to mention, that while many folks with MS may have a worsening of symptoms while drinking, I seem to have the opposite experience. I’m a little better on my feet, my speech is much better, and overall, I seem to function in a way that I don’t when I haven’t had a couple drinks. My friends and family have even remarked that I look like a younger me in the way that I walk and move after I’ve had a couple drinks. I’ve also had more than one neurologist give me the “OK” to have a couple drinks on occasion, as long as I don’t overdo it.
Each person is different
So like most things with MS, each person may have a different experience when it comes to alcohol. It’s important to know the effects it will have on you as an individual, and that includes knowing when to stop and when to not even start (particularly if you have a medication that warns against it). That said, it can also be a slight enhancement for some people, and it’s important not to judge them either.
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