Liver Hepatitis C Living Alcohol

Chronic infection with the hepatitis C virus can cause persistent liver inflammation, leading to permanent liver damage such as cirrhosis. Alcohol abuse is another leading cause of cirrhosis of the liver. Drinking is dangerous when you have hepatitis C, as alcohol can accelerate hepatitis C liver damage, even when you aren’t experiencing symptoms of hepatitis C.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Liver?

After traveling to the stomach after being ingested, alcohol is then absorbed into the bloodstream from the stomach and small intestine. Drinking too much can cause liver inflammation, which causes liver damage such as cirrhosis over time.

The body’s reaction to alcohol varies from person to person, based on factors such as age, weight and gender.

Drinking with Hepatitis C: Two-Fold Damage

Hepatitis C can cause liver damage, impairing the liver’s ability to perform essential functions such as removing toxins from the body. As the liver processes alcohol, liver damage from underlying hepatitis prevents these toxins from being removed from the body completely, causing further liver damage.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (2007), individuals with a history of heavy use of alcohol and hepatitis C infection have twice the liver damage of people who drink lightly or abstain completely from alcohol.

Liver damage from drinking with hepatitis can include cirrhosis and primary liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma. Symptoms of hepatitis-induced liver damage may not appear for years after infection.

Research overwhelmingly indicates that heavy drinking with hepatitis C causes accelerated liver damage. However, conclusions about light or moderate drinking are less definitive. Even when you see no hepatitis symptoms, alcohol can be working with hepatitis C to affect your liver. As such, abstain from consuming alcohol if you have hepatitis C.

Alcohol and the Hepatitis C Viral Load

The hepatitis C viral load is the concentration of the hepatitis C virus in the bloodstream. Increases in alcohol use may cause increases in viral load, as excessive alcohol consumption weakens the immune system and stresses the liver.

Alcohol and Hepatitis C Treatment

Alcohol use can affect hepatitis C treatment as well as the progression of the disease. Alcoholics and people who abuse alcohol may be less likely to comply with hepatitis C treatment, which can be long and cause unpleasant side effects.

Alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of the antiviral medication interferon. A period of abstinence before treatment can improve your chances of a positive response to antiviral medications.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (updated 2010). Alcohol and public health: Frequently asked questions. Retrieved October 15, 2010, from

Schiff, E.