Overcoming Alcohol Addiction with Type 1 Diabetes

“Unfortunately, I see alcohol and substance abuse fairly frequently in (the type 1 diabetes) population,” says Kristine Batty, a diabetes care and education specialist (DCES) in Maryland.

“Diabetes and depression are so common, so there’s a lot of self-medicating that goes on, mostly with alcohol,” explains Batty, a veteran healthcare provider who’s focused on diabetes for the last 15 years, currently at Howard County General Hospital, part of the Johns Hopkins healthcare system.

Batty was drawn to this work after growing up with a sister who has type 1 diabetes and a grandfather with type 2 diabetes.

She notes that any alcohol consumption with type 1 diabetes (T1D) comes with an extra dose of danger, especially when consumed in large amounts.

Alcohol’s impact on blood sugar

Why and how does alcohol impact blood sugar levels? While alcohol often contains some sugar, the risk of low blood sugar comes hours later when the liver is occupied with processing this toxic liquid from your system. While the liver is busy processing the alcohol, it isn’t accomplishing its normal role of storing and releasing glucose.

The result can include moderate-to-severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), likely while you’re still intoxicated and possibly unconscious or unaware of your blood sugar, putting you at risk of seizure and death.

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