Alcohol and Hepatitis

Wine, rice wine, beer, and spirits.  It's been cultivated for thousands of years and has caused millions of alcoholics.  Alcohol is one of the oldest, and most commonly abused substances in the world.  It is a poison that affects liver function, even if you don't have Hepatitis C.  Excessive alcohol and Hepatitis C use can cause cirrhosis of the liver, including liver cancer.  Hepatitis C stops the livers' natural functions of “breaking down alcohol and removing the toxic byproducts.”  A toxic environment is created when these toxins are not removed completely by the liver and stay in the body.

Effects of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C has three major effects: Either you get the manageable liver disease, cirrhosis, or liver cancer.  It is possible for the body to get rid of the virus itself, though it is more likely you will develop a long-term infection.  Most people will get minor liver damage, a smaller part will get cirrhosis, and a very small part will get liver cancer.  It all depends on lifestyle choices, like how much you drink in a week.

Fibrosis and Alcohol

Hepatitis C can cause fibrosis, or scar tissue inside the liver, which is also caused by inflammation or injury.  It impairs liver functions.  Alcohol aggravates the damage from fibrosis, which is even more in a person with Hepatitis C.  If the person is a heavy drinker, the fibrosis will turn to serious scarring or cirrhosis.

Cirrhosis and Alcohol

Cirrhosis is the result of the serious liver injury.  It can be caused by alcohol or viral hepatitis.  Minor liver scarring still happens even on light drinkers or non-drinkers with Hepatitis C, the damage of which can last up to 40 years.  Heavy drinkers, by contrast, develop liver scarring much faster, and cirrhosis can develop after roughly 40 years of both infection and drinking.

The Relationship Between Alcohol Use and Viral Load

Viral load means the amount of virus in the bloodstream, which is Hepatitis C.  Alcohol will actually increase the amount of virus because heavy alcohol use impairs the immune system.  It also puts a strain on the liver, giving the virus-free rein in that organ.

Alcohol abstinence generally helps Hepatitis C treatment be more effective than drinkers.  In fact, a study confirmed that people who were either very light drinkers or didn't drink at all responded 3 times more frequently than heavy drinkers.  By contrast, only 2 heavy drinkers cured the virus out of 20.  It could be because drinkers don't maintain the antiviral medication.


It is unknown if there is a “safe” amount of alcohol to drink when you have Hepatitis C.  It's best to go abstinent, and not drink at all because the even small amount of alcohol can cause damage with this virus.  If you find that you drink nearly 7 days a week, or have over 2 drinks a day, you will want to work on reducing your alcohol intake, and to do the challenge to try and totally give up alcohol.