Vertigo Caused by Alcohol


Vertigo is a relatively common disorder characterized by its unsettling feeling of dizziness or spinning. While this disruptive condition can happen to anyone, there’s an interesting link between alcohol use and the worsening of the condition.

If you want to find out more about vertigo caused by alcohol, this guide will have you covered with everything you need to know, including underlying causes, how it develops, reliable tips to manage the condition, and when to seek medical support.

How Vertigo Affects the Inner Ear and Balance

The feeling of dizziness or spinning that vertigo causes can be quite disorienting, making it difficult to stand or walk steadily.

However, you should understand that vertigo on its own isn’t a health condition or a disease. Instead, it’s often a symptom of an underlying issue, such as heavy drinking or inner ear problems.

In addition to hearing, the inner ear also plays a vital role in maintaining balance. It has a complex structure made of various parts that work together to perform its function.

However, the ones associated with balance are mainly the fluid-filled labyrinth along with the vestibule.

Any mismatch between the signals these parts send to the brain compared to other sensory organs creates the feeling of vertigo.

Risk Factors and Causes of Vertigo

As previously established, vertigo is often a symptom of an underlying condition, so it can be caused by various factors. Here’s a quick look at them:

  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo : Simply known as “BPPV”, which is the most common cause of the condition where particles of the inner ear move from their original position and float in the semicircular canals.
  • Meniere’s Disease: A disorder of the inner ear that causes various symptoms, mainly vertigo, tinnitus, and hearing loss.
  • Labyrinthitis: Inflammation of the inner ear’s labyrinth, caused by bacterial or viral infections.
  • Vestibular Neuronitis: inflammation of the inner ear’s vestibule, often caused by viral infections.
  • Migraines: Migraine is a form of intense headaches that happen on one side of the head, often accompanied by vertigo and nausea.
  • Alcohol Consumption: Drinking alcohol affects the balance of the inner ear fluids, leading to various side effects including vertigo.

How Alcohol Interacts with Vertigo

Alcohol causes vertigo through several mechanisms and the severity of its effects depends on a few factors, such as the amount of alcohol consumed and the predisposition of individuals to suffer from lightheadedness and balance problems. Here’s a quick look at them:

Disruption of the Vestibular System

Your inner ear relies on a system of fluids and tiny hairs to stay balanced. However, Alcohol can easily disrupt this delicate system by affecting the fluid levels in the body.

This throws off the signals your inner ear sends to your central nervous system about your position, which triggers an episode of vertigo as your body tries to adjust.


According to various studies on the effect of alcohol on the body, it also functions as a diuretic, increasing the rate at which you urinate and lose water.

Dehydration is one of the most popular aspects that further impacts other systems, including your inner ear.

As you become dehydrated, the fluid balance in your inner ears becomes even harder to maintain, which worsens the symptoms of vertigo.

Impairment of the Nervous System

Besides the indirect effects of alcohol, it also affects the brain directly by disrupting its signals and messing with the neurotransmitter balance, especially in chronic alcohol use disorder.

This impairment is directly associated with worsening of the symptoms, making you experience severe vertigo for longer periods.

Common Symptoms of Alcohol-Induced Vertigo

While vertigo is often described as a symptom of its own, it’s actually a group of different adverse effects that come together in the form of episodes. The following are some of the special symptoms of vertigo caused by alcohol intake:

  • Severe dizziness that is more intense than exhaustion dizziness, often accompanied by unsteadiness and inability to stand upright or walk in a straight line
  • Increased risk of falls, especially with the coordination impairment of drinking
  • Feeling that the room is spinning or tilting around you
  • Nausea and stomach upsets that often lead to vomiting, exacerbated by alcohol intoxication
  • Nystagmus, which is a condition where the eye makes jerky and involuntary movements

How Does Alcohol Consumption Increase the Risk of Vertigo?

The effects of alcohol consumption on vertigo are quite intense. Here is how excessive alcohol intake can worsen your vertigo symptoms

Intensified Episodes

Alcohol heavily disrupts the balance of nerve signals in your inner ear and throws off your sense of equilibrium.

This translates to a more intense feeling of dizziness and discomfort during a vertigo attack, compared to attacks when you’re sober.

Prolonged Effects

As soon as a vertigo episode hits you, your body tries hard to regain its state of equilibrium and balance to overcome the discomfort and disorientation.

However, when you drink alcohol, you introduce an intoxicating substance that further disrupts your body’s efforts to maintain balance, extending vertigo episodes up to several hours or even days.

Increased Episode Frequency

Vertigo is mainly caused by a disruption in nerve signals, which is also one of the effects of drinking alcohol. As a result, the chances of experiencing vertigo attacks more frequently become exceedingly high for predisposed individuals.

Vertigo as a Withdrawal Symptom

Quitting alcohol can be quite challenging due to withdrawal symptoms, which typically include headaches, fatigue, fever, and general discomfort.

However, for people with a high risk of vertigo, it also becomes a symptom to struggle with during detox, which adds a layer of frustration and challenge to the treatment process.

How to Manage and Treat Alcohol-Induced Vertigo

While alcohol-induced vertigo is relatively similar to different types of vertigo, managing the condition can be somewhat different. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at some of the methods used to treat it:

Limiting Alcohol Intake

As simple and obvious as this one seems, it’s actually the most effective step while trying to manage the condition.

If you’re prone to vertigo episodes after drinking, cutting back or avoiding it altogether will result in remarkable improvements in a short period of time.

Proper Hydration

Low hydration levels associated with drinking can result in a wide range of problems, such as hangover headaches and vertigo episodes.

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day (around 8 glasses of water at different times) can really help you avoid the discomfort associated with vertigo.

Supportive Medications

While the previous two lifestyle changes are quite effective in managing alcohol-induced vertigo for most people, they’re not always enough.

In that case, your doctor may prescribe some medications to help you with the condition. These include:

  • Vestibular Suppressants: These are the first line of treatment for chronic vertigo, mainly betahistine
  • Antiemetics: These are anti-nausea drugs that manage the urge to vomit, such as promethazine and ondansetron.
  • Antihistamines: These are a quick solution for episodes but are only suitable as a short-term treatment, especially cinnarizine

Final Thoughts

This marks the end of today’s guide about vertigo caused by alcohol. As you can see, both conditions are deeply interconnected due to the similarity in central nervous system effects.

The impact of vertigo as well as other symptoms becomes much more intense with heavy drinking, so you should always seek professional help if you or your loved one are struggling with alcohol addiction.

Contact Long Island Treatment Center now to connect with qualified experts and develop a personalized treatment plan for a successful recovery!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Long Island Treatment Center

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