Rheumatoid arthritis – do you drink alcohol on methotrexate and arava?


all medsI have a confession to make.  I drink.

This is probably more of a ‘confession’ for me than for most, for two reasons.

One, I take medications that you should not drink alcohol with.  Namely methotrexate and arava.

And two, one of the reasons I separated from my husband was because of his heavy drinking.  There are those that call me a hypocrite.  I disagree, of course. There is a big difference between an alcoholic and a drinker. Even a heavy drinker is not necessarily an alcoholic.

I have always enjoyed a glass of red wine.  But recently my drinking has increased.

I drink because it eases the pain.  A glass of wine makes my oxycodone more effective, even though I am well aware that combining alcohol with oxycodone is not recommended.  But there are days when I will do anything to relieve some pain.  It helps me sleep through the pain.

When my pain levels are low, I don’t drink much.  But my pain levels are not low very often lately.  I usually have at least one glass of red wine every night.

When my pain levels are high, I drink considerably more.  They are high right now.  They have been high, with a few days of respite, for weeks now.  So I am drinking more. 2-3 drinks per night.  On the weekend just gone by, I was in a lot of pain.  So I drank most of a bottle.

I want to be completely clear. I am honest with my GP and my rheumatologist about my drinking habits.  And why I drink.  Both would prefer that I abstain.  But when the pain is ramping up, and the oxycodone is not cutting it, and my whole body is on fire, a glass of red wine is my crutch.  It has a physical effect on the pain, as well as an emotional one.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a big crier.  Sometimes though, I need to cry. But I’m such a hard-faced ice queen that I don’t like to cry in front of people. I tend to hold it together and paste a smile on.

I’m so used to holding it together, that sometimes I need a little help to let the emotions out.  A glass or two of red wine facilitates that process as well.

I have my liver function tests on time every month, and so far they have always been fine.  My rheumatologist admitted, considering my blood work, I appear to be handling alcohol and medication just fine.

Why am I confessing?  Because today started out not so bad.  As the day went on, the familiar itch in my bones started.  A wave of terrible fatigue washed over me, and I knew that a knock down flare was on its way.

And I realised that I didn’t have any wine in the house.

I sat and thought about it.  There was no other item that I needed from the shops.  Walking was very painful.  I had already taken my usual daily dose of oxycodone by 2pm.   I knew it was going to be a rough night.  And I asked myself if I could get through the night without a glass of wine.

I knew that a trip to the shop would be painful and slow.  And I got in the car and went and bought wine.

Am I becoming an alcoholic? Have already become one?

I don’t believe so.  But it’s a habit to watch.

I often get asked how I cope.  I have severe RA, Lupus, Sjogren’s, and a few other lesser autoimmunes.  I am a single mother. I have two children, one with special needs – Asperger’s Syndrome.  I live on a disability support pension. I try to supplement my income with freelance writing work.  Life is not easy.

So how do I cope?  I’d love to say I have a supportive partner who has big strong arms and is generous with his hugs.  But I don’t.  I have a vice.  A crutch.  An escape.

My glass (or three) of red wine.


  1. Raising my glass of craft beer to you as I read. This resonates with me so strongly. At the end of last year, my liver tests weren’t so good. My rheumatologist halved my dose of sulfasalazine and I cut out alcohol altogether. Next test was fine. I cautiously started having the odd glass of wine here and there. We’re not big drinkers. Wine with dinner sometimes, and the odd night out – given the budget currently, that’s not so often, really. But, like you, I use it to boost the effect of the meds. Sometimes, the meds on their own just don’t cut it. Add a glass of wine to the mix, and there’s a blissful muffling of the pain messages – and that feels MUCH better.

    • I am so glad I am not the only one Karen! I’m sorry that you need it for pain, but we do what we have to, to just make life that little bit better. Thanks for your comments 🙂

  2. I’ve always been a fairly light drinker, I like a nice glass of cold white wine now and then but red, which I love, makes me feel stomachy. I can take or leave the white wine to be honest, I can’t drink more than one large glass without it affecting me anyway and I hate that feeling. I also weigh more than I’m happy with due to my lack of mobility and ability to exercise and we all know booze is loaded with sugar.
    On the other hand when the pain is really bad, a tot or two of neat Jack Daniels makes it much more bearable, or at least dulls the pain to the point I know I’ll sleep well. The only reason it’s in the house is that my son bought it for my hubby and to be honest I’ve probably drunk most of the bottle, with his permission of course. I’ve looked at the supermarket shelf longingly several times in the spirits aisle but I won’t let myself buy one because I know I’d end up having a tot, or two, more often than I probably should, to ease the pain.
    My labs are always fine, I look great on paper! So that’s not an issue for me, but I would rather not end up using alcohol as a crutch. This is a lifelong disease, I’m only 46 and I don’t want to end up dependent on booze, I’m already dependent on di-hydrocodeine.
    As an additional, my hubby has always been a drinker, not an alcoholic but he couldn’t relax for the evening unless he had his cider. I’ve recently watched him go through a load of testing, still ongoing and he’s had to make lifestyle changes because of the issues that the booze, at least in part, have caused. I do not ever want to have to go down that road. Hubby is now feeling much better in himself since he’s cut right down and is taking much better care of himself.

  3. I’m in a different situation. I’ve been a moderate to heavy drinker for years, meaning 2 or 3 glasses of wine a night. I like it, it relaxes me, and I feel good. Also, yummy.

    I’m on sulfasalazine now, and it doesn’t appear to be reacting well with the alcohol. 1st, evreything tastes funny, so I’m not enjoying the wine as much. 2nd, I feel kind of drunk after only 1/2 a glass, gross and sick in my stomach. So I’m likely giving up my habit, at least for awhile. It sucks.

  4. I take Arava and have maybe two drinks every day. So far it has not had a negative impact on my liver; I hope that continues.


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