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Men With HIV-Positive May Take Fewer Drinks to Get Buzzed

When it comes to alcohol, tolerance plays a key role in how fast or slow you become intoxicated. If you rarely drink, for example, tossing back three shots of whiskey would leave you inebriated. If, on the other hand, you are an alcoholic, those same three shots probably wouldn’t have a huge impact…unless your’re HIV positive.

New research shows that the use of alcohol – particularly among HIV-positive men – is a risky proposition.

Dangerous Combinations

Because consuming too much alcohol can weaken the immune system, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs notes that it poses dangerous consequences including experiencing severe side effects from HIV medications or fighting off HIV-related infections. And since drinking damages the liver, it can impair this organ’s ability to remove the waste products of any HIV medications.

It has also been reported that some surprising findings which show that HIV-positive men are more sensitive to alcohol in general. The study out of Yale University – published in last month’s issue of the journal AIDS and Behavior – collected data on alcohol consumption from 2,600 men who were participating in an Aging Veterans Cohort study.

The researchers found that those with detectable HIV needed a quarter less of a drink on average to “feel a buzz or a high” from alcohol than those who had suppressed HIV or were infected. Lead author Dr. Amy C. Justice, a professor in medicine and public health at Yale, acknowledged that the reason for this difference was not yet clear. However, she did suggest that “once people have HIV, alcohol makes it less likely that they will take their antiretroviral medications.”

Factoring in Drug Use

Similar dangers also apply to HIV-positive men who abuse certain recreational drugs.

A March 2014 study from the University of California – San Diego showed that crystal meth users showed more rapid progressions to AIDS and greater risks of cognitive impairment, but were not able to explain the link. They also noted that marijuana and cocaine use did not contribute to the risk of rapid HIV progression or cognitive impairment.

Although an occasional drink won’t make you noticeably sicker, using alcohol as an escape can prove dangerous to both your physical and mental health. Think about what consequences you’re willing to accept before using alcohol. If you’re looking to cut back on your drinking or quit entirely, talk with your doctor about available resources and treatment options in your community.

HIV does not have to be a death sentence. Many people who are diagnosed with this disease go on to lead long and productive lives. Give yourself the best possible chance at that outcome by avoiding alcohol and staying healthy.

Additional Reading:Pass Out Pages: Twitter Trend Glorifies Binge Drinking