Why Alcohol and Sickle Cell Don’t Mix

Have you ever wondered why you have pain or a crises after a night of drinking? Well let me break it down for you.

Alcohol is a diuretic. This means that it triggers your body to start peeing–alot. Not only are you losing water and fluids out that way, alcohol suppresses the secretion of Anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), which means that your body is unable to regulate how much water you are losing through pee. Usually when you are getting dehydrated, ADH kicks in and stops your kidneys from making more urine, but with the suppression of ADH by alcohol, there is no checks and balances. So you start peeing out a storm.

In addition to this, the liver is the main organ that gets rid of alcohol by breaking it down. It metabolises about 90% of the alcohol in our body while only about 10% is excreted through either our urine or breath. The liver metabolises alcohol at the rate of one to two units per ounces, sometimes less than that in women. The liver needs water to get rid of toxins from the body but, as alcohol acts as a diuretic, there will not be sufficient amounts in the body, so the liver is forced to divert water from other organs including the brain, which causes the throbbing headaches. In addition, your blood is thickened by this sever dehydration, leading to clumping, which then leads to a crises.

The liver also produces more toxins in the body as a by-product during the breakdown of alcohol. When the liver is metabolising alcohol it produces acetaldehyde, a substance which has toxic effects on our liver, brain and stomach lining, resulting in severe headache, nausea, vomiting and heartburn (aka hangover).

So, before you take that shot of whiskey (which is 1.5 ounces), realize that you are dehydrating your body at an alarming rate, doing damage to your kidneys and liver, as well as setting yourself up for a crises.Personally, on the 21st birthday, I overindulged, learned my lesson, and pretty much realized at that point that a hangover with a crises is a recipe for disaster!

Remember, with sickle cell, water is your friend…alcohol, not so much.

Stay safe and healthy.

Tosin Ola


  1. Melissa on November 1, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Yup learned this the hard way! I was experiencing pain while out and at some point if If I drank some alcohol it would dull the pain. SMH the next day I was in the hospital with my first major crises at 28 yo. Thanks for the breakdown. I also noticed that Red Bull or monster energy drinks set me up for a crises. Wonder if this is so for others with Sickle Cell SC?
    Thanks for the breakdown…

  2. Moses on September 19, 2011 at 9:28 am

    yup,I was stupid enough to drink last night and stand for long periods.needless to say I didnt slip that nyt.had a major crisis after two years.i wont be drinkin anytime soon.as they say,a lesson learnt the hard way is a lesson well kept.

  3. pascal on July 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    I agree by half with the article. I have symptoms more related to sickle cell trait rather than sickle cell disease itself. Blood analysis made at a young age and recently show low amount of red blood cell.
    I’d just say from my experience that blond or lager beer make me feel a lot better than liquor alcohol. Apart the unwanted direct effects of drinking a beer, I’m christian raised and also culture minded the side effects is feeling sleepy or in a daze… but such effects don’t last too long with a beer so it’s quite ok, the other way around to avoid these when I’m having a beer by myself is to eat something consistent, the effects are almost invisible.
    But why is it like this? Where I would have headaches in the morning and sometimes throughout a day without a beer the day before, drinking a (up to 75cl 4,5%) beer would help me get rid of most of these symptoms. Let say I feel more “oxigened” with one beer.
    On the other hand, liquors (any) are quite painful for 2 to 3 days.
    That was my comment on this.

  4. MsLaker on August 13, 2012 at 12:49 am

    Wow!!! This is interesting I have never had side effects or pain criisis after drinking…I have had many crisis but none after drinking. As we all know SC effects us all different so I guess this one skip me

  5. K. FLOYD on September 8, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    I went Birthday drinking nine days after my 27th on 9/8. I had a shot of Jack Daniels and Jack & coke and a bud. The pain I am in is regarded, like Gucci mane crazy. I don’t want to go to the hospital because I just left on 8/28 and I have a stupid anxiety to all needles that I’ve acquired over the years

  6. oladapo on January 5, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    I found out that stuff like baileys or stout is okay.Spirits a no no on a night out had it mixed with juice in crisis d next day usually hard to find a vein but this time was worse the alcohol had dried me up had to wait a while b4 medication could be given.Thought it wise to keep my alcohol intake to myself.Never again lesson learnt

  7. NamZ on August 22, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    Wow!!! I didnt know there were so many other people with this disease and that go through what i go through I just went out for a drink and I’m in major pain… I always get the pain after I drink but today its worse I had to Google why.thanks!

  8. BeBe on January 10, 2016 at 1:34 am

    I just lost a friend yesterday. He couldn’t let the bottle be. But i thank God for the time I had with him. 23 was too soon.

  9. Droider on June 12, 2016 at 5:19 am

    Alcohol may or may not be a trigger for me, the 1st time I had taken alcohol I was in serious crisis for about 2days straight. I regretted but being 21 now,it seems strange that I don’t drink alcohol on a night out or even a night in. I experimented and Frank a fair amount of mixed whiskey and after reaching my drunken state I drank water all through till morning, I did have a hangover, but not a single sign of a crisis, I still drink occasionally but very carefully and always with a separate amount of money specifically for water and I have avoided crisis even with drinking for 2 years now, I hope this helps. Water water water.

  10. N8 on November 13, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    I never drink not even for health purposes but just cos i don’t like it but drank last night at my bestfriends birthday, feeling like a crises is about to begin but came online to Google why i have numb lips too and i somehow found this. I am really happy to see there are others, a lot of times its hard to say what’s really happening or explain to others. Always wished i knew another person with Sickle Cell. Is there a chance SICKLE CELL WARRIOR that you could create a whatsapp group or something where we can just join and talk to eachother?. Might be a terrible idea but i just thought it’d be nice

  11. King six on December 17, 2016 at 12:44 am

    Water and Powerade orange juice is good I learned in my 20s that booze wasn’t good for us and to be honest my dr said marijuana is good for us as long as we don’t smoke it but yeah I like the affects alcohol has on my man hood but I hate when the pain crisis kicks in so I just said the hell with drinking alcoholic beverages

  12. Lizzy on April 25, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Wow, thanks so much for this.it gives me more knowledge about this alcohol of a thing though I don’t drink it but just to enlighten some other warriors like me.

  13. Ojuáya on January 5, 2018 at 10:21 am

    I’m a sickler, now 26 yrs, I’ve been taking vodka, whiskey but no beer – just a piece of advice, whatever your brand is when you’re taking it, be cautious, crisis ain’t no joke, take it but always please do so with lots of water!

  14. King Six on January 6, 2018 at 3:45 am

    I slipped big time at the bodyshop I work at here in Memphis trying to keep warm in the artic vortex weather we’re having (20*) and on Friday all the fellas stop by the shop to hang out. Well, boo man comes in the office with a water jug full of Tennessee white lightening moonshine, so me being me, I pour a small cup to blend in with the other guys and low and behold here I am up at 5 am Saturday morning hurting like hell.

  15. King Six on January 6, 2018 at 4:12 am

    I also would like to say that before moving to Memphis I had terrible health care in Jackson, Mississippi, but moving to Memphis under the guidance of Dr. Patricia Adams Graves I was able to go from 140 lbs to 180 lbs. She changed my medicine plan and treats my illness with concern and the best care!

  16. Ruks on January 17, 2018 at 4:19 am

    I love the lesson… I just drank alcohol yesterday and I feel perfectly fine because I didn’t drink too much I guess, so I will be drinking with caution because I don’t want to have another crisis….. So maybe three glasses on special occasions!

  17. Bee bello on March 10, 2018 at 2:32 am

    Wow at VE! Thanks for that advice and may you live another 50 to that 50 you are now, in the name of what you believe in…I’m also a sickle cell and wish to live more of that too!

  18. Kemzy on April 30, 2018 at 2:36 am

    Hi, I am from Cameroon. Can sickle cell disease cause impotency?