Alcohol: How Severely Can It Affect Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Sufferers?

Terry L. Cooper
3 min readJun 29, 2020


Ah, the marvels of alcohol. And yet the Achilles heel for lots of people. The ‘standard’ for a few others. And also poison if you have CFS/PVFS/ME.

A friend of mine was diagnosed with Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome/CFS back in 1995. She thought that having a beverage or two would not have any impact of any kind. Much like the days before her PRE-CFS days. However, she did not understand what she was doing to herself when she drank. She had no clue exactly how badly alcohol can affect the seriousness of this CFS.

Nowadays she does not touch alcohol in any way and has not done so for a couple of years now. She said she prefers to see a minimum of a few hours in the day instead of being bedridden for weeks at a time because of one alcoholic drink.

When you have CFS/M.E., you may as well be putting arsenic down your throat …

— — — SIDE NOTE — — —

Okay — so that comparison might be a little ‘remarkable’, however, you get what I’m saying, right?

— — — SIDE NOTE — — —

When someone has CFS/M.E. they are likely to develop an alcohol intolerance. The smallest drink of alcohol — even a tiny bit can send you into a regression — as I found out the hard way several years back. Yes, I too have CFS as well as Fibromyalgia.

Having an alcoholic drink now and then was enough to tip the extent of my CFS over the edge and put me in bed indefinitely.

When a “normal” person drinks they may feel a bit bad for a day or so, after which, they’re back to ‘normal’, bouncing back and raring to go. But when a person with M.E./CFS has even just one drink, they’re likely to feel like ‘death warmed up’ for what seems like an eternity!

I don’t actually like alcohol much so I don’t miss it. But even if I did, I have realized that alcohol no longer makes me feel the way it used to before I had CFS.

Drinking alcohol now feels like I’m feeding myself poison, and my body reacts accordingly — i.e. a flare, or worse, a relapse — and I suffer the consequences for a long, long time afterward.
So for most of us, it’s, unfortunately, a case of accepting it or getting much, much worse.

As Dr. Shepherd writes in his book ‘Living With M.E.:

“ Some people who previously enjoyed and tolerated regular consumption of alcohol without any adverse effects, now find that even small amounts make them extremely unwell.”.

And that’s not forgetting that alcohol also affects the effects of antidepressants (often prescribed to CFS sufferers to treat their fatigue and to help sufferers sleep). So if you’re taking antidepressants, it’s something to bear in mind.

Having CFS/ME can be a very lonely and devastating experience and depression can be a very real and serious symptom for some CFS sufferers. So the last thing you need is to take substances that make you feel worse.

And according to Dr. Shepherd, many sufferers sadly do turn to alcohol. But alcohol is no answer. Apart from probably making you feel depressed, you could also develop an alcohol dependency.

So there you go — a list of reasons why you might think twice about drinking anything remotely alcoholic once you have been diagnosed with CFS/M.E.

My friend didn’t know about the possible effects of alcohol when she first had a Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome diagnosis, and she suffered the consequences. Her illness got worse. A lot worse. I hope this article arms you with enough information for you to make an educated decision about alcohol either way.

You never know — it may well make the difference.

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Terry L. Cooper

Writer for this platform since June 2020. See my pinned post for links to locate me all over the WWW.