Author: James Anderson

Chronic pain: Why does alcohol worsen it?

Chronic Pain and Alcohol Abuse

However, a chronic pain condition can significantly impact how we move through the world and influence all dimensions of our wellbeing. Simultaneously addressing both conditions is possible and often requires looking beyond immediate physical sensations. Let’s dive into why alcohol misuse and chronic pain commonly co-exist, and explore steps you can take to feel better.

Many people drink to soothe uncomfortable feelings, whether those are psychological (ex. anxiety symptoms or depressive thoughts), physical (ex. chronic pain symptoms), or a combination of both. The persistent difficulty and demands of managing a chronic illness can be incredibly challenging, and seeking relief is only human. As I often witness with my clients, learning more about how drinking habits affect overall wellness can be incredibly empowering, and lead to both finding self-forgiveness, and adopting new forms of self-soothing. 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.

Study limitations and next steps

This is the first study to generate a preclinical model of alcohol withdrawal-related allodynia and alcohol-induced neuropathic pain in vivo. The chronic intermittent ethanol vapor-two bottle choice (CIE-2BC) mouse model used in this study paves the way for more research in this area. They also found increased levels of IL-6 and activation of ERK44/42 in mice with alcohol withdrawal-related allodynia, but not in mice with alcohol-induced neuropathic pain. Roberto’s group is continuing studies on how these molecules might be used to diagnose or treat alcohol-related chronic pain conditions. Alcohol use disorder (AUD), which encompasses the conditions commonly called alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction, affects 29.5 million people in the U.S. according to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Chronic Pain and Alcohol Abuse

Other studies show that drugs that block a protein called myostatin in your muscles might also stop muscle loss. Some people have trouble with daily tasks and simple movements like standing or walking. It’s more common in people who have other alcohol-related diseases like liver cirrhosis.

Understanding and addressing the complexities of chronic pain will provide relief and lead to a higher quality of life. One of those insights involves recognizing the impact alcohol has on your chronic pain, and vice versa. To date, the lack of preclinical, or animal, models of alcoholic neuropathic pain limited the investigation of pathological mechanisms underlying the onset of neuropathic pain in people with alcohol use disorder. This type of muscle condition is linked to a lifetime of drinking high amounts of alcohol. Over time, too much alcohol leads to tissue damage and deficiencies in B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, and vitamin D. Alcoholic myopathy is a muscle condition that can affect people with alcoholism or binge drinkers.

Dysfunctional Descending Pain Pathways.

Too much alcohol affects your speech, muscle coordination and vital centers of your brain. This is of particular concern when you’re taking certain medications that also depress the brain’s function. If you feel that you sometimes drink too much alcohol, or your drinking is causing problems, or if your family is concerned about your drinking, talk with your health care provider. Other ways to get help include talking with a mental health professional or seeking help from a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar type of self-help group. Unhealthy alcohol use includes any alcohol use that puts your health or safety at risk or causes other alcohol-related problems. It also includes binge drinking — a pattern of drinking where a male has five or more drinks within two hours or a female has at least four drinks within two hours.

  1. They found that 87% of those who screened positive suffered from chronic pain as well.
  2. People with alcohol use disorder are unable to stop or control their alcohol consumption, even when it causes problems to their health, relationships, and work.
  3. Bidirectional associations between alcohol use disorder (AUD) and chronic pain syndromes also have been reported (Apkarian, Bushnell, Treede, & Zubieta, 2005; Apkarian et al., 2013; Brennan, Schutte, & Moos, 2005; Egli et al., 2012; Zale, Maisto, & Ditre, 2015).
  4. Other studies show that drugs that block a protein called myostatin in your muscles might also stop muscle loss.

This also may interfere with efficiency in descending pain inhibition at the midbrain level and precipitate development of chronic pain conditions in which deficiency in descending pain modulatory system is thought to be a central cause (Ossipov et al., 2014). Because pain can be a significant risk factor for relapse in those recovering from AUD, there is an urgent need to understand the links between AUD and development of chronic pain. As mainly central rather than peripheral mechanisms are thought to be involved in the chronification of pain, identifying structural and functional differences in the brain in relation to AUD is key to recognizing links between the two conditions. Herein, we begin with a review of the neural bases of pain, and we discuss the influence of alcohol on processes involved in pain perception. We then proceed by proposing some potential mechanisms involved in the development of chronic pain in AUD.

How alcohol consumption contributes to chronic pain

All of this can be done gradually and is often more effective when built in incremental steps. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and chronic pain are widespread conditions with extensive public health burden. This review seeks to describe neuroanatomical links and major mediating influences between AUD and chronic pain, in the service of identifying factors that predict the risk of chronic pain in precipitating or facilitating AUD.

The prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and nucleus accumbens are all essential components of the alcoholism/addiction circuitry (Volkow & McLellan, 2016). Impaired cognition can modulate the cognitive-evaluative dimension of pain experiences, both as a reinforcing factor for alcohol-seeking behavior (as alcohol is known to alleviate pain) and also in how pain is perceived. Additionally, physiological cues accompanying alcohol consumption can influence drinkers through modulating their expectancy. This may be the main enabling factor in developing chronic pain through reinforcement in susceptible individuals, and a behavioral model of chronic pain (the operant model; (Fordyce, 1976; Sharp, 2001)), suggests that positive and negative reinforcement of acute pain behaviors may lead to the development of chronic pain.

This indicates that the inflammatory pathways involved are different and could potentially lead to the development of targeted therapies in the future. At specific time points, the researchers measured allodynia in each mouse by using von Frey filaments, a set of calibrated nylon fibers of varying thickness and length.