The Connection Between Chronic Pain and Alcohol

It seems to be a common assumption in society that chronic pain can be alleviated or self-medicated with alcohol. In fact, a study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that 28 percent of individuals who battle chronic pain turn to alcohol in hopes of relieving their discomfort.

Pair of glasses on a document that has the word alcoholism on it.

Another source found that more men than women chose alcohol to medicate chronic pain and that those with a higher income choose alcohol as their vice for pain relief. No matter what gender or financial status you may possess, you may have the subconscious association that having some drinks will take the edge of chronic pain away.

This might seem appealing for many reasons. For one, alcohol is fairly inexpensive to purchase versus costly pain medication. Alcohol is also available in many convenient local stores and can be obtained without a prescription from a doctor. Cheap and hassle-free relief from chronic pain? Seems perfect, right?

The Problem of Self-Medicating with Alcohol

Here is a problem with that assumption: chronic pain is long-lasting and defined as pain lasting for longer than 3 months. The pain felt by the sufferer can become more severe as time progresses, which increases frustration and dismay. If someone chooses to self-medicate with alcohol, he or she will feel the need to use more alcohol to combat the pain over time. Tolerance to alcohol can also develop, requiring a higher consumption to reach the same level of effect.  This can quickly progress down the slippery slope toward alcoholism.

Alcohol’s Effects on Pain

Here is another problem with that assumption: drinking alcohol chronically can actually make the pain more severe.Excessive use of alcohol can cause a small fiber peripheral neuropathy that can cause increased sensations of pain. The alcohol will only exacerbate this condition, and you may choose to stop drinking. However, if you do choose to stop drinking alcohol, the withdrawal symptoms can heighten feelings of pain, which can increase the urge to drink heavily again and feed into the vicious cycle.

Here is the solution. Do not use alcohol to self-medicate any chronic pain you may experience. You can end up heading for alcohol rehab in Washington State before you ever feel relief from the chronic pain. Instead, you can utilize natural methods to help battle chronic pain. Recent publications in the medical community show that meditation can be developed over time to provide long-term relief from chronic pain. Meditation and other mindfulness techniques have shown to be effective in the treatment of chronic pain without the sufferer having to consume any substances.

While the assumption that there is a relationship between chronic pain and alcohol is partially correct, the missing piece is that the true relationship is between chronic pain and alcohol abuse.  Do not let the misleading thought that alcohol can alleviate pain lead you to a problem that will only do more harm and do nothing to stop your chronic pain. To learn more about resources to help battle addiction, contact us today. Educating yourself is the best way to stay healthy and happy.

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.