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Viral Hepatitis

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FAQ: Can I drink alcohol once in a while if I have hepatitis C?

for Veterans and the Public

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I drink alcohol once in a while if I have hepatitis C?

Alcohol can clearly contribute to worsening liver disease. You must discuss with your health care provider if any amount of alcohol is safe for you.

Alcohol can cause inflammation and scarring in the liver. If you have any underlying liver condition, such as hepatitis C or hepatitis B or damage from long-term alcohol use, your liver will be more sensitive to alcohol. When you have hepatitis C virus, alcohol on top of the hepatitis C can cause the inflammation and scarring to be worse, and overall damage to the liver may happen much faster when you drink alcohol.

Here is some helpful information about alcohol and hepatitis:

  • No one knows exactly what amount of alcohol is "safe" when you have hepatitis C. Some small amounts of alcohol may be safe while you have hepatitis C and have mild damage in the liver, but if you have cirrhosis, then no amount of alcohol is safe and you should not drink at all.
  • All forms of alcohol can be damaging. In other words, beer and wine are not "safer" than whiskey.
  • One drink is usually defined as 1 shot (1 1/4 ounces) of whiskey or other liquor, 1 4-ounce glass of wine, or 1 12-ounce can of beer.
  • If you are taking treatment for hepatitis C, you cannot drink alcohol during the treatment.
  • If you have severe scarring (cirrhosis), then you should not drink any alcohol at all.
  • If you are awaiting a transplant, you also cannot drink any alcohol at all.