toll free: 844.955.3042
local tel: 561.464.6505
fax: 561.450.6637

RECO Intensive
140 NE 4th Avenue
Delray Beach, FL 33483

What Are Blood Thinners and Will I Need Them Forever?

Blood thinners are a form of medication that attempts to stop or slow clotting in the blood. A person must be prescribed blood thinners by a doctor in order to take them.

Despite what their name implies, InformedHealth.org explains that blood thinners do not actually “thin” the blood by watering it down. Rather, blood thinners are anti-clotting medications used to “make sure that certain components of the blood do not stick together so easily,” which can help prevent clots from forming.

How Blood Thinners Are Used

Blood thinners are often used to lower the risk of certain cardiovascular issues that are caused by blood clots. Some of these issues include:

  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Venous thrombosis
  • Other underlying conditions

Anti-clotting medications are categorized into three groups to treat different symptoms or cardiovascular conditions. These categories include:

  • Oral anticoagulants: Oral anticoagulants, which are taken by mouth, are meant to stop certain clotting factors in the blood from forming. These medications include ingredients called Vitamin K antagonists. Oral anticoagulants are highly effective and are commonly used in treatments like atrial fibrillation, post-artificial heart valve implants, and post-lung embolism.
  • Antiplatelets: Antiplatelets help stop platelets in the blood from clotting so easily. Antiplatelets are weaker than oral anticoagulants and are normally used after a person has a heart attack or a stroke.
  • Heparins: Heparins take effect much faster than antiplatelets and oral anticoagulants, so they are often used for acute situations where clotting needs to be prevented quickly.

About Vitamin K Antagonists

Vitamin K antagonists are active ingredients in blood thinners because they are highly effective at stopping blood clots from occurring. Vitamin K antagonists are usually taken by those who have a high risk of heart attacks, strokes, or have had heart and lung-related surgeries. These are also taken by people who need to stay on blood thinners for long periods of time, which requires consistent regulation of the blood thinner’s efficiency by a doctor.

Vitamin K antagonists stop certain clotting factors produced in the liver by taking portions of Vitamin K out of the liver. Pregnant women are often not allowed to take Vitamin K antagonists due to their potential of harming an unborn fetus. There are also several drugs and other substances that should not be mixed with Vitamin K antagonists due to high levels of interaction:

  • Antibiotics like amoxicillin and ciprofloxacin
  • Psychotropic medication like citalopram and sertraline
  • Medicines taken to treat or prevent stomach ulcers, like cimetidine and omeprazole
  • Herbal products like St. John’s Wort, ginkgo, and ginseng
  • Painkillers like acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) and paracetamol

Diet and Substance Use When Taking Blood Thinners

Though Vitamin K antagonists take Vitamin K from the body, InformedHealth.org confirms that a person does not need to add more Vitamin K to their diet. However, engaging in a healthy diet with whole foods and leafy green vegetables is important for cardiovascular health. Moderate exercise can also aid blood thinners in keeping you safe and preventing clotting.

Alcohol and other substances do not mix well with blood thinners. Large amounts of alcohol can influence the blood’s ability to clot and intensify the need for blood-thinning medication. Other substances can negatively affect cardiovascular health and inhibit one’s ability to take blood thinners safely.

If you were prescribed blood thinners and are suffering from a substance use disorder, talk to your doctor today about treatment. Though moderate amounts of alcohol can mix safely with blood thinners, copious use of alcohol or other substances can create serious issues that may require a hospital visit.

Side Effects of Blood Thinners

While blood thinners are intended to stop clots from forming, sometimes our blood needs to clot to heal injuries. There are side effects to blood-thinning medications that can make it a little harder to heal from injuries. These side effects include:

  • Light nosebleeds
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Bruises on the skin

If you experience any of the following side effects while taking blood thinners, contact your doctor immediately:

  • Heavy and persistent bleeding from the nose or gums
  • Large bruises
  • Red-colored urine
  • Blood in the stool, which usually displays as black or red stool
  • Blood in vomit

Do I Have to Take Blood Thinners Forever? 

Blood thinner prescriptions are written on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes, a person is told that they will need to take blood thinners for extended periods of time or even for the rest of their life. In most cases, blood thinners are used as a preventative medicine to prevent another incident.

For example, after heart surgery, a patient might be told to take blood thinners consistently to prevent clotting around the surgical area that could cause cardiac arrest. There is no shame in taking blood thinners but if you are worried, especially if you use substances, talk to your doctor about your concerns.

Blood thinners are a preventative medicine that may require you to change aspects of your daily routine. Diet, exercise, and changes in substance use may need to happen in order for you to remain safe on blood thinners. For those suffering from alcohol or substance use disorders, the necessary changes that come with the introduction of blood thinners might seem unrealistic. If you’re worried that you can’t stop your substance use, call us at RECO Intensive. We know that change can be scary, but a cardiovascular or lung event that leads to a temporary or permanent blood thinner prescription may force you to make that change. The professional staff and experienced alumni at RECO Intensive can teach you how to change your routine for the better and create a treatment plan that is catered to your needs. To learn more, call us today at (561) 464-6533. We want to support you. Let’s get back to a brighter future. 

Recent Articles

Discover a better life and call our recovery helpline today.