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Alcohol and Medications

Is It Safe To Mix Levothyroxine and Alcohol

Published:
August 30, 2023
·
18 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
August 30, 2023
·
18 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
August 30, 2023
·
18 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
August 30, 2023
·
18 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
August 30, 2023
·
18 min read

Tucked at the base of the neck, the little butterfly-shaped gland known as the thyroid plays a pivotal role in determining how we feel, think, and even how we look. But it can also cause a whole lot of trouble when it doesn’t function well. 

Often shadowed by its hyperactive cousin, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism happens when our thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones. It's like a car running on low fuel. In recent decades, a medication known as levothyroxine has worked wonders to bring relief for this serious condition.

But what about mixing levothyroxine (also known as synthroid) and alcohol? Can you drink alcohol while taking thyroid medication, and can you drink on levothyroxine in particular? If you’re taking this effective medication, you may also be wondering, “How long after taking levothyroxine can I drink alcohol?”

By asking these questions, you’re taking a smart step to ensure your well-being. Let’s dig deeper to find out more about this potentially problematic combo.

Thyroid 101

The thyroid produces two primary hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These essential hormones help regulate the pace at which our body uses energy (otherwise known as our metabolism). They also have a say in essential functions like heart rate, digestion, muscle function, and brain development.

a person holding a glass of alcohol and medicines on a table

There's another player in this game — the pituitary gland. Located in the brain, the pituitary gland keeps a close watch on the body's need for the thyroid hormones. When levels dip too low, the pituitary releases Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to give the thyroid a nudge to produce more.

A well-functioning thyroid ensures our body's systems are running smoothly. For instance, it helps regulate body temperature. Ever wondered why you feel unusually cold or warm sometimes? The thyroid might be a factor! Moreover, the thyroid influences weight management. With an appropriate hormone balance, the body can efficiently burn calories, even while resting.

Finally, no discussion of the thyroid is complete without mentioning iodine, a mineral vital for thyroid hormone production. That's why iodine is often added to table salt — it's a way to ensure we get our daily dose!

Thyroid Trouble

Just like in any complex system, things can occasionally go awry in the thyroid. When it goes into overdrive and produces too many hormones, the result is hyperthyroidism, a condition that can make us feel jittery, anxious, or overly warm. 

On the other hand, if it doesn't produce enough, we can end up with hypothyroidism, which might lead to any number of these common symptoms:

  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Unintended weight gain
  • Dry, coarse skin and hair
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Depression and mood swings
  • Muscle weakness and aches

While triggers of can vary, there are a few known culprits behind hypothyroidism:

  • Autoimmune disease. Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the most common cause. Here, the immune system mistakenly targets and damages the thyroid gland.
  • Medical treatments. Radiation therapy or surgeries related to the thyroid can sometimes lead to hypothyroidism.
  • Medications. Some medications can impact the thyroid's hormone production. It's essential to stay informed and have regular check-ups if you're on long-term meds.

Diagnosis usually involves blood tests to measure hormone levels. Once confirmed, treatment typically involves daily intake of a synthetic thyroid hormone like levothyroxine (more on that below!). The goal is to restore hormone levels so the body's engine can run at just the right pace.

What's the Scoop on Levothyroxine?

These days, levothyroxine is the most commonly prescribed medication for hypothyroidism. This man-made version of the thyroxine hormone T4 was created to mimic its natural counterpart. Levothyroxine comes to the rescue by replenishing the missing hormone and helping to restore a balance.

The dosage of levothyroxine can be a bit of a Goldilocks situation — it has to be just right. Too little, and the body's hormone levels remain out of whack. Too much, and we might experience symptoms of hyperthyroidism, which include rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, and nervousness.

For those on levothyroxine, regular check-ups and blood tests are essential to ensure that the medication is doing its job, and adjustments can be made as required. Life changes, such as weight loss, pregnancy, or even aging, can impact how much of this medication we might need.

Levothyroxine and Alcohol

Now the main question: what happens when alcohol is in the picture? Science shows that alcohol can slow down the metabolism and interfere with various physiological processes. It can also mess with our sleep, moods, and overall energy levels — not what we're looking for when trying to lead a vibrant, healthy life!

When we’re taking levothyroxine to maintain our thyroid levels, things get even messier. Combining alcohol and levothyroxine can certainly throw a few curveballs our way. Let's take a deeper look into this duo.

The Battle for Absorption

Our gut plays a starring role in absorbing medicines, and levothyroxine is no exception. Alcohol is a scene-stealer when it comes to digestion, disrupting the whole process. Specifically, alcohol can alter the lining of our stomach and intestines. As a result, the gut doesn’t soak up levothyroxine as efficiently as it would under normal circumstances. This means we might not be getting the full benefits of the medication, even if we’re taking it as directed.

It's not just about the immediate aftermath of that drink. Alcohol's effects on the gut can linger, with some studies suggesting changes in gut lining and function for hours or even days after consumption. This could potentially mean inconsistent absorption of levothyroxine over time if we drink frequently.

You might think, "Well, if I take my medication in the morning and drink in the evening, I should be fine, right?" Not so fast! Given the lasting impacts of alcohol on gut function, even this gap might not guarantee optimal absorption.

In the end, if levothyroxine isn’t being absorbed as it should be, we might not be getting its full benefits. Inconsistent or reduced absorption can mean fluctuating hormone levels, leading to potential symptoms or health challenges.

Liver Troubles

Our liver plays a role in converting T4 (as well as its synthetic twin, levothyroxine) into T3 — the active hormone form that our body uses. Excessive alcohol strains the liver and possibly reduces this conversion, making the medicine less effective. This could mean your body might not get as much active thyroid hormone as it needs, even if there's ample levothyroxine going in.

Moreover, consuming alcohol, especially in significant amounts, adds an additional workload on the liver. The liver prioritizes alcohol metabolism over other processes. As a result, the conversion of T4 to T3 might take a backseat, leading to potential imbalances in active thyroid hormone levels.

Regular alcohol consumption can also lead to liver conditions like fatty liver, hepatitis, and even cirrhosis. These conditions can further impair the liver's ability to manage and convert thyroid hormones, which can complicate hypothyroidism management.

Impaired conversion isn't the only concern. A stressed liver can lead to other health challenges, including altered cholesterol metabolism and impaired detoxification pathways. This can have cascading effects on overall health, especially for someone already managing a condition like hypothyroidism.

To sum it up, our liver is a hardworking organ that doesn't need additional stressors. Mixing levothyroxine and alcohol can throw a wrench in its smooth operations and cause health challenges. Recognizing the significance of this relationship can guide informed decisions, ensuring that both the liver and thyroid health remain in harmony!

Added Curveballs

There are also a few indirect ways in which alcohol can throw a wrench in the levothyroxine treatment plan.

  • Masking symptoms. Symptoms of hypothyroidism can be sneakily similar to some effects of alcohol. We're talking fatigue, mood fluctuations, and even weight changes. If you're consuming alcohol while on levothyroxine, it might become challenging to discern whether a new or intensified symptom is due to the medication, the alcohol, or the condition itself.
  • The potential for counteraction. Alcohol, especially in excessive amounts, can sometimes exacerbate symptoms of hypothyroidism. For instance, both alcohol and hypothyroidism can lead to heightened cholesterol levels. Combining them could amplify this risk, moving you further from your health goals.
  • Consistency troubles. One of the essential aspects of levothyroxine treatment is ensuring that hormone levels remain consistent and stable. Mixing in alcohol can introduce a variable that throws off this stability, leading to periods where hormone levels fluctuate more than desired.

The Verdict

While an occasional drink might not spell disaster for everyone on levothyroxine, regularly mixing the two can pose potential risks. Remember, everyone's body reacts differently, so it's essential to know how yours responds.

As for the question, “How long after taking levothyroxine can I drink alcohol?”, it's generally recommended to wait a few hours to make sure that the levothyroxine is properly absorbed without any interference.

Action Steps for Those Cutting Back on Alcohol

  • Educate yourself. Understand the interactions between any medications you're taking and alcohol. Being informed is half the battle won!
  • Set clear boundaries. If you decide to have a drink, set a limit and stick to it. Maybe it's one drink per week or even one per month.
  • Alcohol-free days. Dedicate specific days of the week where you consciously choose not to consume any alcohol. Over time, you can increase these days and live a healthier lifestyle.
  • Seek alternatives. There's a world of delicious non-alcoholic beverages out there! Explore mocktails, herbal teas, and infused waters to satisfy your thirst.
  • Surround yourself with support. Connect with friends or groups who have similar goals. Having a support system can make the journey smoother.
  • Journal the journey. Document how you feel on days you don't drink versus days you do. Seeing the differences in energy, mood, and overall well-being can be a significant motivator!
  • Consult a professional. If in doubt, always consult a medical professional about how your medication interacts with alcohol and the best course of action for you.

As for keeping your thyroid in top shape, try these tips:

  • Check your iodine intake. Iodine is crucial for thyroid hormone production. Instead of relying solely on iodized table salt, incorporate natural iodine-rich foods into your diet like seaweed, fish, dairy, and eggs. But don’t go overboard — too much iodine can also be problematic for the thyroid.
  • Limit (but don’t eliminate!) goitrogen-rich foods. Foods like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale contain goitrogens which can interfere with thyroid function if consumed in massive amounts, especially when raw. The key is moderation and variety. Cooking these vegetables also reduces their goitrogen content.
  • Prioritize sleep. Adequate rest ensures your body and thyroid have time to recover and function effectively. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. If you struggle with sleep, consider creating a calming bedtime routine or adjusting your sleep environment.
  • Manage stress with mindfulness practices. Chronic stress can disrupt thyroid balance. Integrate daily mindfulness practices, like meditation or deep breathing exercises, to manage stress levels. Even 10 minutes daily can make a difference!
  • Regular thyroid check-ups. Schedule annual appointments to monitor your thyroid hormone levels. Regular check-ups can help detect any potential issues early, ensuring timely interventions.
  • Explore selenium and zinc. These minerals support thyroid health. You can find selenium in Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and fish, while zinc is abundant in beef, chicken, nuts, and legumes. 
  • Stay informed about environmental toxins. Some chemicals, like perchlorates found in some cleaning products, can affect thyroid health. Be proactive by researching the products you use at home and opt for eco-friendly, non-toxic alternatives whenever possible.

Wrapping Up

To sum it up, your well-being is paramount. While it might be tempting to mix levothyroxine and alcohol, understanding the science behind it helps you make more informed decisions. Remember, taking it one step at a time can lead to a healthier, more radiant you!

Tucked at the base of the neck, the little butterfly-shaped gland known as the thyroid plays a pivotal role in determining how we feel, think, and even how we look. But it can also cause a whole lot of trouble when it doesn’t function well. 

Often shadowed by its hyperactive cousin, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism happens when our thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones. It's like a car running on low fuel. In recent decades, a medication known as levothyroxine has worked wonders to bring relief for this serious condition.

But what about mixing levothyroxine (also known as synthroid) and alcohol? Can you drink alcohol while taking thyroid medication, and can you drink on levothyroxine in particular? If you’re taking this effective medication, you may also be wondering, “How long after taking levothyroxine can I drink alcohol?”

By asking these questions, you’re taking a smart step to ensure your well-being. Let’s dig deeper to find out more about this potentially problematic combo.

Thyroid 101

The thyroid produces two primary hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These essential hormones help regulate the pace at which our body uses energy (otherwise known as our metabolism). They also have a say in essential functions like heart rate, digestion, muscle function, and brain development.

a person holding a glass of alcohol and medicines on a table

There's another player in this game — the pituitary gland. Located in the brain, the pituitary gland keeps a close watch on the body's need for the thyroid hormones. When levels dip too low, the pituitary releases Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to give the thyroid a nudge to produce more.

A well-functioning thyroid ensures our body's systems are running smoothly. For instance, it helps regulate body temperature. Ever wondered why you feel unusually cold or warm sometimes? The thyroid might be a factor! Moreover, the thyroid influences weight management. With an appropriate hormone balance, the body can efficiently burn calories, even while resting.

Finally, no discussion of the thyroid is complete without mentioning iodine, a mineral vital for thyroid hormone production. That's why iodine is often added to table salt — it's a way to ensure we get our daily dose!

Thyroid Trouble

Just like in any complex system, things can occasionally go awry in the thyroid. When it goes into overdrive and produces too many hormones, the result is hyperthyroidism, a condition that can make us feel jittery, anxious, or overly warm. 

On the other hand, if it doesn't produce enough, we can end up with hypothyroidism, which might lead to any number of these common symptoms:

  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Unintended weight gain
  • Dry, coarse skin and hair
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Depression and mood swings
  • Muscle weakness and aches

While triggers of can vary, there are a few known culprits behind hypothyroidism:

  • Autoimmune disease. Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the most common cause. Here, the immune system mistakenly targets and damages the thyroid gland.
  • Medical treatments. Radiation therapy or surgeries related to the thyroid can sometimes lead to hypothyroidism.
  • Medications. Some medications can impact the thyroid's hormone production. It's essential to stay informed and have regular check-ups if you're on long-term meds.

Diagnosis usually involves blood tests to measure hormone levels. Once confirmed, treatment typically involves daily intake of a synthetic thyroid hormone like levothyroxine (more on that below!). The goal is to restore hormone levels so the body's engine can run at just the right pace.

What's the Scoop on Levothyroxine?

These days, levothyroxine is the most commonly prescribed medication for hypothyroidism. This man-made version of the thyroxine hormone T4 was created to mimic its natural counterpart. Levothyroxine comes to the rescue by replenishing the missing hormone and helping to restore a balance.

The dosage of levothyroxine can be a bit of a Goldilocks situation — it has to be just right. Too little, and the body's hormone levels remain out of whack. Too much, and we might experience symptoms of hyperthyroidism, which include rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, and nervousness.

For those on levothyroxine, regular check-ups and blood tests are essential to ensure that the medication is doing its job, and adjustments can be made as required. Life changes, such as weight loss, pregnancy, or even aging, can impact how much of this medication we might need.

Levothyroxine and Alcohol

Now the main question: what happens when alcohol is in the picture? Science shows that alcohol can slow down the metabolism and interfere with various physiological processes. It can also mess with our sleep, moods, and overall energy levels — not what we're looking for when trying to lead a vibrant, healthy life!

When we’re taking levothyroxine to maintain our thyroid levels, things get even messier. Combining alcohol and levothyroxine can certainly throw a few curveballs our way. Let's take a deeper look into this duo.

The Battle for Absorption

Our gut plays a starring role in absorbing medicines, and levothyroxine is no exception. Alcohol is a scene-stealer when it comes to digestion, disrupting the whole process. Specifically, alcohol can alter the lining of our stomach and intestines. As a result, the gut doesn’t soak up levothyroxine as efficiently as it would under normal circumstances. This means we might not be getting the full benefits of the medication, even if we’re taking it as directed.

It's not just about the immediate aftermath of that drink. Alcohol's effects on the gut can linger, with some studies suggesting changes in gut lining and function for hours or even days after consumption. This could potentially mean inconsistent absorption of levothyroxine over time if we drink frequently.

You might think, "Well, if I take my medication in the morning and drink in the evening, I should be fine, right?" Not so fast! Given the lasting impacts of alcohol on gut function, even this gap might not guarantee optimal absorption.

In the end, if levothyroxine isn’t being absorbed as it should be, we might not be getting its full benefits. Inconsistent or reduced absorption can mean fluctuating hormone levels, leading to potential symptoms or health challenges.

Liver Troubles

Our liver plays a role in converting T4 (as well as its synthetic twin, levothyroxine) into T3 — the active hormone form that our body uses. Excessive alcohol strains the liver and possibly reduces this conversion, making the medicine less effective. This could mean your body might not get as much active thyroid hormone as it needs, even if there's ample levothyroxine going in.

Moreover, consuming alcohol, especially in significant amounts, adds an additional workload on the liver. The liver prioritizes alcohol metabolism over other processes. As a result, the conversion of T4 to T3 might take a backseat, leading to potential imbalances in active thyroid hormone levels.

Regular alcohol consumption can also lead to liver conditions like fatty liver, hepatitis, and even cirrhosis. These conditions can further impair the liver's ability to manage and convert thyroid hormones, which can complicate hypothyroidism management.

Impaired conversion isn't the only concern. A stressed liver can lead to other health challenges, including altered cholesterol metabolism and impaired detoxification pathways. This can have cascading effects on overall health, especially for someone already managing a condition like hypothyroidism.

To sum it up, our liver is a hardworking organ that doesn't need additional stressors. Mixing levothyroxine and alcohol can throw a wrench in its smooth operations and cause health challenges. Recognizing the significance of this relationship can guide informed decisions, ensuring that both the liver and thyroid health remain in harmony!

Added Curveballs

There are also a few indirect ways in which alcohol can throw a wrench in the levothyroxine treatment plan.

  • Masking symptoms. Symptoms of hypothyroidism can be sneakily similar to some effects of alcohol. We're talking fatigue, mood fluctuations, and even weight changes. If you're consuming alcohol while on levothyroxine, it might become challenging to discern whether a new or intensified symptom is due to the medication, the alcohol, or the condition itself.
  • The potential for counteraction. Alcohol, especially in excessive amounts, can sometimes exacerbate symptoms of hypothyroidism. For instance, both alcohol and hypothyroidism can lead to heightened cholesterol levels. Combining them could amplify this risk, moving you further from your health goals.
  • Consistency troubles. One of the essential aspects of levothyroxine treatment is ensuring that hormone levels remain consistent and stable. Mixing in alcohol can introduce a variable that throws off this stability, leading to periods where hormone levels fluctuate more than desired.

The Verdict

While an occasional drink might not spell disaster for everyone on levothyroxine, regularly mixing the two can pose potential risks. Remember, everyone's body reacts differently, so it's essential to know how yours responds.

As for the question, “How long after taking levothyroxine can I drink alcohol?”, it's generally recommended to wait a few hours to make sure that the levothyroxine is properly absorbed without any interference.

Action Steps for Those Cutting Back on Alcohol

  • Educate yourself. Understand the interactions between any medications you're taking and alcohol. Being informed is half the battle won!
  • Set clear boundaries. If you decide to have a drink, set a limit and stick to it. Maybe it's one drink per week or even one per month.
  • Alcohol-free days. Dedicate specific days of the week where you consciously choose not to consume any alcohol. Over time, you can increase these days and live a healthier lifestyle.
  • Seek alternatives. There's a world of delicious non-alcoholic beverages out there! Explore mocktails, herbal teas, and infused waters to satisfy your thirst.
  • Surround yourself with support. Connect with friends or groups who have similar goals. Having a support system can make the journey smoother.
  • Journal the journey. Document how you feel on days you don't drink versus days you do. Seeing the differences in energy, mood, and overall well-being can be a significant motivator!
  • Consult a professional. If in doubt, always consult a medical professional about how your medication interacts with alcohol and the best course of action for you.

As for keeping your thyroid in top shape, try these tips:

  • Check your iodine intake. Iodine is crucial for thyroid hormone production. Instead of relying solely on iodized table salt, incorporate natural iodine-rich foods into your diet like seaweed, fish, dairy, and eggs. But don’t go overboard — too much iodine can also be problematic for the thyroid.
  • Limit (but don’t eliminate!) goitrogen-rich foods. Foods like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale contain goitrogens which can interfere with thyroid function if consumed in massive amounts, especially when raw. The key is moderation and variety. Cooking these vegetables also reduces their goitrogen content.
  • Prioritize sleep. Adequate rest ensures your body and thyroid have time to recover and function effectively. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. If you struggle with sleep, consider creating a calming bedtime routine or adjusting your sleep environment.
  • Manage stress with mindfulness practices. Chronic stress can disrupt thyroid balance. Integrate daily mindfulness practices, like meditation or deep breathing exercises, to manage stress levels. Even 10 minutes daily can make a difference!
  • Regular thyroid check-ups. Schedule annual appointments to monitor your thyroid hormone levels. Regular check-ups can help detect any potential issues early, ensuring timely interventions.
  • Explore selenium and zinc. These minerals support thyroid health. You can find selenium in Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and fish, while zinc is abundant in beef, chicken, nuts, and legumes. 
  • Stay informed about environmental toxins. Some chemicals, like perchlorates found in some cleaning products, can affect thyroid health. Be proactive by researching the products you use at home and opt for eco-friendly, non-toxic alternatives whenever possible.

Wrapping Up

To sum it up, your well-being is paramount. While it might be tempting to mix levothyroxine and alcohol, understanding the science behind it helps you make more informed decisions. Remember, taking it one step at a time can lead to a healthier, more radiant you!

Summary FAQs

1. What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones. This can lead to symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, and increased sensitivity to cold.

2. How does levothyroxine help with hypothyroidism?

Levothyroxine is a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone T4. It's used to restore and maintain adequate hormone levels in the body, helping to manage the symptoms of hypothyroidism.

3. How does alcohol affect the absorption of levothyroxine?

Alcohol can alter the lining of the stomach and intestines, potentially affecting how well levothyroxine is absorbed. This means you might not get the full benefits of the medication if alcohol is consumed alongside or close to the time of taking levothyroxine.

4. Why is the liver's role crucial in the discussion of levothyroxine and alcohol?

The liver converts levothyroxine (T4) into its more active form, T3. Alcohol can burden the liver, possibly slowing down this conversion process. Chronic alcohol consumption can also lead to liver conditions that further impair this process.

5. What is the masking effect concerning levothyroxine and alcohol?

Some symptoms of hypothyroidism, like fatigue and mood swings, can resemble the effects of alcohol. When consuming alcohol while on levothyroxine, it becomes challenging to determine if a symptom is due to the medication, the alcohol, or the condition itself.

6. Is it safe to drink alcohol while on levothyroxine?

While an occasional drink might not severely disrupt the effects of levothyroxine, frequent alcohol consumption can complicate the management of hypothyroidism. It's always best to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice.

7. What should I do if I believe alcohol is affecting my hypothyroidism or levothyroxine treatment?

If you suspect that alcohol is impacting your condition or treatment, it's crucial to discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider. They can provide guidance, adjust medication dosages if needed, and offer strategies to manage potential interactions.

Take Care of Your Thyroid and Change Your Relationship With Alcohol With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

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The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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