A glass of wine with dinner or a cocktail out on the town—alcohol is a common element when we spend time with family and friends. But drinking to calm your nerves before surgery or to take the edge off afterward? Not a good idea—which is why I tell my facial plastic surgery patients in NYC that it’s better to wait.
To understand why abstaining from alcohol both before and after surgery is important, it’s vital to understand how it affects the body.
Alcohol and Medication
The most widely understood reason why drinking after surgery is inadvisable is that alcohol interacts with pain medication—specifically opiates, which are usually prescribed after surgery.
Opiates are powerful products that can greatly improve your comfort as your body heals, but they don’t mix well with alcohol. In fact, alcohol use is typically discouraged when many strong medications are prescribed. In the case of opiates, alcohol can amplify its normal side effects, raising them to an uncomfortable level.
For example, the combination of alcohol and opiates can make you extremely drowsy or even lead to a loss of consciousness or coma. Their interaction can also cause vomiting, seizures, and more serious complications that could potentially lead to death. It’s simply not worth it to mix the 2. Wait at least a day after taking your last pain pill before imbibing.
Alcohol and Your Body
Alcohol also has more systemic effects on your body that aren’t related to medications. For example, as anyone who has woken up after a night of heavy drinking knows, alcohol dries out the body’s tissues—including the skin. This lack of hydration can make the skin difficult to work with during surgery, especially in procedures that require the skin to stretch, such as a facelift. Healthy, hydrated skin has better resilience and elasticity and creates more favorable results with more discreet scars.
Additionally, alcohol consumption can hamper the body’s immune system, making it less able to fight off infection and potentially putting the results of your surgery at risk. For the best results from your facial rejuvenation procedure, stay away from alcohol for a few days prior to your treatment.
Finally, alcohol expands your blood vessels and temporarily thins your blood, elevating the risk of bleeding-related complications both during and after surgery. These conditions can prolong the healing process, hindering blood from clotting in a timely fashion and raising the risk of infection through incisions that have not completely closed.
In short, consuming alcohol before or after your surgery can lengthen your overall recuperation time, slowing down your body’s natural ability to heal itself and keeping you from returning to your favorite activities.
Plastic surgery resource RealSelf.com has provided a wonderful, informative blog post that offers more insight into this topic. I invite you to educate yourself and share your questions with me during your consultation.