Author: John Carter

The Relationship Between Alcohol & Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain and Alcohol Abuse

He argues that, once someone has a chronic history of drug taking or drug-seeking behavior for ‘euphorogenic purposes’, they will be unable to distinguish between the analgesic effects of the drug and the euphorogenic effects. These conclusions follow the traditional disease model of addiction, that once a person is an addict, he/she will always be an addict. Despite numerous reports on associations between chronic pain disorders, depressive disorders, and harmful drinking, it is not clear if the burden of a depressive disorder is similar in the presence or absence of ALC, in individuals who also have a chronic pain disorder. We had hypothesized that in the presence of chronic pain, the burden of depression would be similar for individuals with and without a history of ALC.

  1. There were no significant differences in the age of onset of MDE, MDD, or PDD between the ALC and CTRL cohorts with frequent/severe headaches, which may in part be due to a sample size issue (see Discussion).
  2. The only class of drugs known to have a direct crosstolerance with alcohol are the benzodiazepines.
  3. The issue of pain management becomes even more complicated when a patient has a substance abuse problem, whether acute or chronic.
  4. This review will first focus on the scientific evidence that establishes the link between alcohol and trauma.

Stress has been found to intensify chronic pain symptoms, which is why stress management is a core component of caring for your health and wellness. Chronic pain usually refers to long-lasting pain that continues beyond a recovery period of 3-to-6 months. Chronic pain may be caused by an initial injury, or occur alongside a chronic health condition.

Covariation of Pain Severity, Alcohol Consumption, and Problematic Drinking

Accordingly, we include information pertaining to the strengths and limitations of individual studies as they are discussed within the current review. Finally, we propose future research directions that were directly informed by our assessment of the strengths and limitations of the extant empirical literature. Dysfunction in the brain reward system seems to be considered as the prominent shared pathological link among these conditions [38]. However, it is not clear why despite the overlap between neural pathways underlying chronic pain and alcohol abuse, as well as the high comorbidity of both of those conditions with depression, the burden of depressive disorders is greater in people with ALC.

Staff may also want to consider collecting other biochemical markers of chronic use, including a γ-glutamyl transferase. Dosing of opioids will probably need to be altered if a person is either acutely intoxicated or has impaired liver function due to chronic use. This information can also be useful in conducting brief interventions geared toward changing alcohol use.

Demographic information for the total sample and the chronic pain group is included for descriptive purposes. To summarize, the literature suggests that patients with a chronic alcohol history will probably respond to pain and opioid medications differently tho those patients with no substance abuse history. This response may be due to physiological crosstolerance, a lowered pain threshold or behavioral factors regarding drug expectancy effects and conditioned tolerance, or, more likely, a combination of the above factors.

The final section will focus on the three aforementioned groups and the specific challenges to managing pain in these populations. Studies utilizing representative population-based and clinical samples are needed to generate prevalence estimates that account for varying definitions of pain (e.g., chronic pain duration, type of pain condition) and alcohol use (e.g., amount consumed, AUD). Future research would benefit from a more detailed and consistent approach to the quantification and operationalization of self-reported alcohol consumption.

Effect of acute and chronic alcohol abuse on pain management in a trauma center

Although this is the most responsible and effective way to evaluate pain, it further emphasizes the potential for abuse and reinforces the fears of the medical team. Certainly, a patient’s experience with alcohol or other drugs will impact the perception of their pain. Similarly, in a study of community-dwelling older adults, the prevalence of moderate-to-severe past-month pain among problem drinkers (43%) was greater than that observed among non-problem drinkers (30%; Brennan, Schutte, & Moos, 2005). Considering that alcohol use is contraindicated for use of prescription analgesics (FDA, 1998), it is possible that rates of heavy drinking may have been suppressed among some samples, perhaps because patients who use pain medications may be reluctant to report concurrent use of alcohol (e.g., Kim et al., 2013).

Chronic Pain and Alcohol Abuse

The comparability between ages of onset of alcohol abuse and depressive disorders may be suggestive of overlapping genetic predispositions for these disorders [34]. We also explored the breakdown of incidence by sex, and the results are presented in Figure 3. Overall, we found that the incidence of depressive disorders was the highest among ALC women and the lowest among CTRL men.

Alcohol use disorder

Your journey changing your relationship with alcohol and managing chronic pain will be enriched when shared and experienced with others. There’s truth in the saying, “when you heal, I heal.” Adopting a sobriety or moderation goal can afford you the space and energy to find a long-term chronic pain management plan that works for you. One of the hardest truths to accept in any chronic pain journey is that healing is a lifelong process.

However, chronic back/neck problems were reported at a higher rate (ALC, 18.3% vs. CTRL, 11.5%) and at an earlier onset (ALC, 25.1 years vs. CTRL, 28.1 years) in the ALC cohort. In comparison, absence of a history of depressive disorders was less common in the ALC group compared to the CTRL group (ALC, 31.3% vs. CTRL, 65.1%). The individuals in the ALC cohort were slightly younger, and had more men, and fewer Asians than the CTRL cohort. While the overall distribution of education levels was similar between the two cohorts, there were fewer individuals in the ALC cohort who had 16 years or more education. Deficiencies in vitamins, like thiamine, reduce your body’s ability to maintain healthy cell development. Moreover, alcohol can also have harmful interactions with both prescription and over-the-counter medications, leading to exacerbated chronic pain symptoms over time.

Using Alcohol to Relieve Your Pain: What Are the Risks?

For example, health service research is needed to determine whether alcohol-intoxicated trauma patients receive acute pain treatment that is systematically different to that received by nonintoxicated patients. Potential disparities in prescription practice, as well as the actual amount of morphine equivalents delivered by nurses, should be examined. If treatment disparities were proven to exist, there would be more incentive to study and rectify the inequities.

While the short term may give you a “feeling” of pain relief, the long term effects can increase your pain severity. Finally, in a review paper, Gentillello et al. also found that nearly half of all trauma patients were under the influence of alcohol when injured [3]. They concluded that these brief interventions resulted in a decrease in drinking, and that a trauma can be an effective time to intervene. In a randomized controlled study, the same group showed that trauma recidivism was halved by a brief motivational intervention [4]. These studies also emphasize that, in addition to a thorough history and self-reported questionnaires, biochemical markers are needed to detect substance abuse problems. Identifying and accounting for potential third variables is essential in the study of co-occurring pain and substance use.

Alcohol use disorder can include periods of being drunk (alcohol intoxication) and symptoms of withdrawal. Sign up for free and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips, current health topics, and expertise on managing health. You might not recognize how much you drink or how many problems in your life are related to alcohol use. Listen to relatives, friends or co-workers when they ask you to examine your drinking habits or to seek help.

Consideration of a PCA for all patients who are having difficulty reaching manageable pain levels is also crucial. This will allow the patient to feel more in control of their environment and they will probably use less medication as a result. Finally, a comprehensive, multimodal approach that includes various classes of medications and nonpharmacological interventions is particularly important when working with patients with substance abuse issues. The literature on the effects of acute alcohol intoxication on pain thresholds shows that ethyl alcohol has been used for centuries as an analgesic agent [25]. There are numerous anecdotes of 19th Century doctors and dentists administering alcohol before a medical procedure [26].

For example, the dysregulation of brain reward circuitry may play a role in the interrelatedness of depression, chronic pain, and alcohol abuse [6]. For decades it has been recognized that patients are undermedicated for acute pain, particularly children, the elderly and substance abusers. When a patient has a substance abuse problem, either current or past, these factors become even more complicated and the optimal management of acute pain becomes an even bigger challenge. Evidence derived from both animal and human studies indicates that acute alcohol administration may confer short-term pain-inhibitory effects.