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Moderation may help in some areas, but can hurt in others. What to know.

Treating chronic pain with a glass of wine or beer may sound like a good idea.. People have used alcohol to relieve pain since ancient times. Laboratory studies confirm that alcohol can reduce pain in humans and in animals. Moreover, recent research suggests that as many as 28 percent of people experiencing chronic pain turn to alcohol to alleviate their suffering. Does alcohol act as an analgesic and simply dull pain sensations? Or does it treat and help prevent chronic pain? Researchers are cautious about drawing any conclusions. Moderate drinking seems to be good for the heart and circulatory system, and may protect against type 2 diabetes and gallstones. The difference lies mostly in the dose.

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to a variety of serious health problems. So, how much is too much? According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate alcohol consumption for healthy adults means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. A pain killing dose of alcohol usually exceeds the moderate drinking guidelines. Also a tolerance for alcohol develops so that it takes more alcohol to produce the same effects. Increasing alcohol use to stay ahead of tolerance can lead to other problems, including the development of alcohol dependence. Chronic pain often can disrupt your sleep and drinking alcohol can further disrupt the normal sleep cycle. Lack of sleep, or poor sleep, hurts the body in many ways and can lead to irritability, depressed mood, and fatigue. This can have a negative effect on your ability to cope with your pain.

Withdrawal from chronic alcohol use often increases pain sensitivity which could motivate some people to continue drinking or even increase their drinking to reverse withdrawal-related increases in pain. Prolonged, excessive alcohol exposure generates a painful small fiber peripheral neuropathy, the most common neurologic complication associated with alcoholism.

Nearly nine out of ten people who abuse alcohol have chronic pain and most are using the substances for pain relief, according to the findings of a new study at Boston University School of Medicine. Alcohol often has harmful interactions with prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and even some herbal remedies. The combination of alcohol and prescription pain medication has what’s called a “synergistic effect” meaning that when two substances are mixed together in the body, the effect is much greater than either one would be separately. Mixing alcohol and acetaminophen can cause acute liver failure and mixing alcohol and aspirin increases risk for gastric bleeding. The study seems likely to stir further debate about the nation’s opioid abuse problem and whether taking patients off pain medication or lowering their doses will only lead to more substance abuse.

Paying attention to sleep, stress, and alcohol use is an important way to effectively cope with your pain. If you drink alcohol frequently, whether it’s to relieve your pain or not, it is important to learn about the potential adverse health effects. Ask your healthcare provider if any alcohol use is safe for you.

Remember to always consult your doctor. For more about alcohol, its abuse and getting help, here is a link from the NIH: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/treatment/treatment.htm

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We exist to inform and educate those suffering from temporary or chronic pain to find alternative science-based solutions free from addictive drug treatments and invasive procedures.

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