It may not be the smartest way to deal with pain, but the use of alcohol as a pain reliever has a long history in this country, the most likely reason being that while alcohol may be readily available, useful medication is often not. Even people who already take prescription medications to treat chronic pain sometimes use alcohol to intensify the pain-relieving effects of the medicines, a dangerous combination that can result in severe or even deadly consequences. If you are suffering from chronic pain and you have been combining painkillers and alcohol to relieve your symptoms, contact Behavioral Rehabilitation Services today to find a safer way to manage your pain.
Combining Painkillers and Alcohol
Many over-the-counter and prescription medications carry warnings about the risk of taking the drugs with alcohol, which can cause serious health problems. Combining painkiller drugs and alcohol, for example, can increase the risk of respiratory depression, particularly among older individuals, possibly causing them to lose consciousness, stop breathing and die. Despite this threat, alcohol abuse remains a serious public health concern in the United States, particularly among those experiencing chronic pain symptoms. In fact, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that approximately 28% of people with chronic pain use alcohol to alleviate their symptoms, whether it is an acute pain associated with a toothache or constant suffering from arthritis or a recurring injury.
The likely reasoning here is that many people see alcohol use as a means of dealing with stress, and chronic pain can be a significant stressor. And while alcohol doesn’t have any direct pain-relieving properties, laboratory studies have shown that alcohol can reduce pain in humans and animals. Alcohol is a depressant, after all, meaning it depresses the central nervous system and slows down vital functions, which explains the slurred speech, unsteady movement and slowed reaction time we typically associate with alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol to relieve chronic pain may affect the central nervous system in such a way that it results in a mild amount of pain reduction, but it ultimately increases the risk of other serious complications.
Prescription Drug Abuse
The danger here lies in the fact that alcohol doesn’t mix well with medications, and people who suffer from chronic pain may face more immediate problems associated with the use of alcohol, especially if they are taking a painkiller medication. What’s more, prolonged, excessive exposure to alcohol can increase pain sensitivity. The increase in sensitivity could be the reason some people continue drinking, to avoid withdrawal-related increases in chronic pain, and may even result in small fiber peripheral neuropathy, a painful type of nerve damage that can cause a tingling, “pins and needles” sensation in the extremities. Whatever short-term relief from pain alcohol use may offer, it is far outweighed by the risks associated with combining painkillers and alcohol for chronic pain relief.
Contact Behavioral Rehabilitation Services Today
Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States, and there appears to be a common theme of patients self-medicating with alcohol and painkiller drugs as a means of coping with pain. For those suffering from chronic pain, it’s important to understand that mixing prescription painkillers and alcohol can have potentially deadly consequences that outweigh any possible pain-relieving effects of the combination. If you regularly use alcohol with painkillers to relieve chronic pain, it may be time to speak to a professional about the benefits of substance abuse treatment for alcoholism or painkiller addiction. Contact Behavioral Rehabilitation Services today to talk to a qualified addiction recovery counselor about your treatment options.