Complex Relationship Between Pain and Alcohol Consumption

The relationship between alcohol use and pain is complex and our understanding of it is incomplete. In this study, researchers assessed the bi-directionality of effects (alcohol consumption to pain, and pain to consumption) over time, and the possible moderation by gender and alcohol use disorder (AUD) symptoms.* Using data from the 2001 and 2004 waves of the US National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), researchers found…

  • In general, higher levels of baseline alcohol consumption were associated with lower levels of pain interference* at follow-up.
  • However, among men with ≥2 AUD symptoms, higher levels of alcohol consumption were associated with higher levels of pain interference.
  • Higher levels of baseline pain were associated with lower levels of alcohol consumption at follow-up. No moderating effects were found for this association.

* Measured via the DSMIV version of the Alcohol Use Disorder and Associated Disability Interview Schedule.

** Determined by 1 item from the Medical Outcomes Study 12‐item Short‐Form Health Survey, which asks participants the extent to which their engagement in daily activities was impacted by pain in the past 4 weeks, with response options ranging from (1) “not at all” to (5) “extremely.”

Comments: Various mechanisms are likely at play within the bi-directional relationship between pain and alcohol consumption. The association between increased symptoms of AUD and higher levels of pain interference in men comes as no surprise since AUD may cause neurological dysregulations and increased sensitivity of stress systems.

Nicolas Bertholet, MD, MSc

Reference: Yeung EW, Lee MR, McDowell Y, et al. The association between alcohol consumption and pain interference in a nationally representative sample: the moderating roles of gender and alcohol use disorder symptomatology. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2020;44(3):645–659.

Post Your Comment

Comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.
Email address is for verification only; it will not be displayed.