Why Does Alcohol Make You Pee More?

Last Updated: February 1, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Many people who consume alcohol will agree that drinking makes you urinate significantly more than usual. The reason why people who drink alcohol urinate more frequently isn’t so clear-cut, as there are many factors to consider.

While any fluid will inevitably need to come out after it’s consumed, alcohol has some additional effects that increase the amount of urine that is produced. While there is no way to avoid the production of extra urine when drinking alcohol, understanding how this effect works can help you try to avoid as many bathroom stops.

Breaking the Seal

When discussing the reasons why alcohol makes you urinate more, it is important to consider the myth of “breaking the seal.”1 The idea behind this concept is that when you urinate for the first time after starting to drink, it will make you need to go frequently. By holding it in, the idea goes, you can avoid frequent trips to the bathroom.

While the idea of “breaking the seal” might seem to make sense, this is ultimately a myth. As you start to drink, the alcohol you are drinking causes urine to build up faster. After the first time you urinate, your urine will be accumulating faster than normal, making subsequent trips to the bathroom more frequent. The frequency with which you have to urinate does not increase because of your first trip to the bathroom.

Vasopressin

Vasopressin2, also called the antidiuretic hormone, is produced by the body to promote water absorption. Using alcohol inhibits the release of vasopressin3, which causes the body to absorb less water. Not only does this cause more urine to be produced than normal, but it will also make losing extra water necessary to keep up with increased urine production.

Osmolality

While most alcohol is eliminated as it is metabolized by the liver, a small percentage of alcohol will be eliminated in urine4. Alcohol is osmotic5, meaning that water is attracted to it. Because some alcohol is eliminated in the urine, that alcohol will pull water from the body as urine is being produced in the kidneys. This osmotic effect causes even more urine to be produced when alcohol is consumed.

How To Stay Hydrated When Drinking

Staying hydrated while using alcohol is important. The ways that alcohol produces urine draw more water out of the body than other beverages do. This means that you are at a greater risk for dehydration while drinking alcohol and will need to stay hydrated.

Drink Plenty of Water

The first and most obvious way to stay hydrated is to drink water. While this may seem a nuisance when alcohol is already making you urinate more often, it will help you avoid dehydration. Drinking a lot of water while using alcohol will help you avoid the dehydration that alcohol can cause.

Choose Drinks With Lower Alcohol Content

Decreasing the amount of alcohol you consume can help reduce the chance of dehydration. The alcohol that drinks contain is what actually causes dehydration, not the fluid in the drinks. Having drinks with a lower alcohol content can help you avoid dehydration.

Avoid Caffeinated Mixers

Caffeine is thought to cause dehydration because it does mildly increase urine production. Studies6 have shown, however, that caffeine alone is not likely to cause any significant amount of dehydration. While caffeine may not cause dehydration by itself, the effects of caffeine, like having excessive energy, could worsen already existing dehydration issues when combined with alcohol.

Drink in Moderation

The risks of dehydration caused by alcohol are proportional to the amount of alcohol that is used. Drinking in moderation can help you better able to control your dehydration and give yourself more opportunities to hydrate with water.

Alcohol and Kidney Damage

Alcohol is known to be damaging to the kidneys. According to the National Kidney Foundation, heavy drinking can double7 the risk of kidney disease. Alcohol damages the kidneys because of its dehydrating effect, and because the kidneys have to work harder to filter the toxic chemicals that alcohol introduces.

While staying hydrated helps lessen the risk of kidney damage, this is often difficult to do while drinking, especially when you have more than just a drink or two.


If you or someone you know is struggling to stop using alcohol, the risk of kidney disease is relatively high. The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper has a proven record of helping people stop using alcohol. Contact us to learn how you can start on your journey to lasting sobriety today.

Sources

  1. Bajic, Petar. “Is ‘Breaking the Seal’ a Real Thing […]en Drinking Alcohol?” Cleveland Clinic, July 13, 2021. Accessed November 29, 2021.
  2. Cuzzo, Brian; Padala, Sandeep A.; & Lappin, Sarah L. “Physiology, Vasopressin.” StatPearls, August 27, 2021. Accessed November 29, 2021.
  3. Taivainen, H.; Laitinen, K.; & et al. “Role of plasma vasopressin in changes of[…]alcohol intoxication.” Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, June 1995. Accessed November 29, 2021.
  4. Jones, Alan W. “Alcohol, its absorption, distribution, m[…]kinetic calculations.” Wires Forensic Science, May 20, 2019. Accessed November 29, 2021.
  5. Nguyen, Minhtri K.; Song, Lu; & et al. “Is the Osmolal Concentration of Ethanol […]Molar Concentration?” Frontiers in Medicine, January 8, 2020. Accessed November 29, 2021.
  6. Killer, Sophie C.; Blannin, Andrew K.; & Jeukendrup, Asker E. “No Evidence of Dehydration with Moderate[…]ee-Living Population.” PLOS One, January 9, 2014. Accessed November 29, 2021.
  7. National Kidney Foundation. “Alcohol and Your Kidneys.” June 29, 2021. Accessed November 29, 2021.

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