Can Kidneys Recover from Alcohol Damage?

Last Updated: May 15, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

The kidneys play an important role in filtering waste and maintaining normal blood pressure. However, alcohol consumption can impact these vital functions in various ways. Whether you drink occasionally or excessively, understanding how alcohol affects kidney function is essential for maintaining overall health.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Kidneys?

Alcohol affects the kidneys through several mechanisms:

1. Diuretic Effect of Alcohol:

  • Alcohol acts as a diuretic, increasing urine production.
  • This can lead to dehydration and strain on the kidneys as they work harder to maintain fluid balance.

2. Dehydration and Kidney Function:

  • Dehydration caused by alcohol consumption can disrupt the kidneys’ ability to regulate fluid levels.
  • This conflict between increased urine production and fluid conservation further stresses the kidneys.

3. Impact on Blood Pressure:

  • Alcohol consumption can temporarily elevate blood pressure levels.
  • Prolonged high blood pressure can damage the kidneys over time.

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol on Kidneys

Diuretic Effect of Alcohol:

  • Alcohol suppresses the release of vasopressin, leading to increased urine production.
  • This diuretic effect puts strain on the kidneys by altering their normal function.

Dehydration and Kidney Function:

  • Dehydration from alcohol consumption disrupts the kidneys’ ability to maintain fluid balance.
  • The kidneys attempt to conserve fluid, leading to increased stress.

Impact on Blood Pressure:

  • Alcohol-induced fluctuations in blood pressure can damage the kidneys, especially with binge drinking.

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on Kidneys

Chronic Kidney Disease:

  • Chronic alcohol abuse doubles the risk of developing kidney disease.
  • Alcoholic nephropathy damages the kidneys’ filtering units, leading to impaired function.


  • Alcohol use increases the risk of inflammation and damage to the kidneys’ filtering structures.

Diabetes and Kidney Complications:

  • Alcohol consumption raises the risk of diabetes, which can lead to kidney complications.

Alcohol-Related Kidney Disorders

Alcoholic Kidney Disease:

  • Heavy alcohol use can cause various kidney diseases collectively referred to as alcoholic kidney disease.

Acute Kidney Injury (AKI):

  • Binge drinking can cause acute kidney injury, which may progress to chronic kidney disease.

Chronic Kidney Damage Due to Binge Drinking:

  • Prolonged binge drinking can lead to permanent kidney damage, requiring dialysis.

Safe Alcohol Consumption and Kidney Health

While moderate alcohol consumption may not cause significant harm to kidney function in most people, heavy drinking poses serious risks. It is important to drink responsibly and seek help if you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction.

If you are looking for addiction treatment in Columbus, Ohio, or surrounding areas, we have inpatient and outpatient facilities nearby and across the country ready to help.

Recommended Alcohol Intake

For men, heavy alcohol use is defined as more than four drinks in a single sitting or more than 14 drinks in a week. For women, heavy drinking is defined as drinking more than three drinks in a single sitting or more than seven drinks in a week. Older adults or those with health problems may be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.

Preventing Dehydration During Alcohol Consumption

To reduce the risk of dehydration while drinking alcohol, drink water alongside alcoholic beverages. Aim to drink at least two full glasses of water for every alcoholic drink consumed.

What Are the First Signs of Kidney Damage From Alcohol?

Symptoms of kidney damage from alcohol include:

  • Red or pink urine, foamy urine
  • Changes in urination frequency or volume
  • Swelling in the legs or feet
  • Decreased energy, back pain, difficulty sleeping, dry skin, itching, and muscle cramps
  • If you experience any of these symptoms, consult a doctor for evaluation.

Can Kidneys Recover From Alcohol Damage?

The kidneys can often recover from alcohol-related damage with abstinence. However, recovery depends on factors such as the duration and severity of alcohol abuse, the presence of other health conditions, and the type of kidney damage. Seeking medical assistance and adopting a healthy lifestyle are crucial steps in promoting kidney recovery.

Understanding the direct impact of alcohol on kidney function, including the disruption of hormonal control mechanisms and potential for chronic damage, is also vital in prevention efforts. By combining moderation, regular medical oversight, and healthy lifestyle choices, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of alcohol-induced kidney damage.

Alcohol addiction can be difficult and potentially dangerous to recover from on your own. Severe alcohol withdrawal can be deadly, so heavy alcohol users should not attempt to wean off alcohol without the help of a professional medical detox facility. Alcohol addiction treatment will begin with a detox period that focuses on managing any uncomfortable or severe withdrawal symptoms that arise. After detox ends, patients begin a rehab program that teaches them how to cope without alcohol and maintain sobriety.

Detox and rehab can take place in inpatient or outpatient settings. Outpatient treatment is best for mild alcohol addictions, and it allows patients to attend doctor and therapy visits while still living at home. Inpatient treatment is best for moderate to severe alcohol addictions or people who have relapsed. Inpatient treatment involves living on-site at the detox or rehab facility, an approach that keeps patients in a healing environment and allows for better monitoring and treatment.

The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper provides a full continuum of care, from medical detox and inpatient rehab to aftercare. We are here to help you and those you love recover from addiction and begin a healthier, alcohol-free future. Contact us to learn more about alcohol addiction treatment programs that can work well for your needs in recovery.


Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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