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Lung diseases

Alcohol Use & COPD

05/18/2000

Question:

Can you please explain the risks associated with heavy alcohol consumption (4-6 drinks/day) in patients with COPD? (Note: a previous question was asked specifically related to emphysema, but was never answered directly by your experts)

Answer:

Alcohol is not usually considered a risk factor for COPD. Theoretically because of its sedative effect it might worsen breathing leading to hypoventilation and lower oxygen levels especially during sleep. However when this was studied these effects did not occur with even "moderate drinking". It is difficult to quantify alcohol strictly by the number of drinks as ethanol content will vary greatly. In at least one of the studies, subjects would have been legally drunk in Ohio. This should by no means condone the use of alcohol as it has many other detrimental effects especially when used for "heavy alcohol consumption".

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Response by:

Mitchell C Rashkin, MD Mitchell C Rashkin, MD
Professor of Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati