(ĐTĐ) - Many people turn to alcohol to solve problems. Alcohol is more than a way to relax or a way to forget hard times for some of these people. They use it in an attempt to self-medicate for a number of situations: sadness, insomnia, stress, and in some cases, even pain relief. Since pain and stress often exacerbate each other, it’s not hard to see why approximately 28% of chronic pain sufferers use alcohol in an attempt to manage their pain.
Alcohol can have a mild analgesic, or pain relieving, effect due to the way it affects the central nervous system. However, this is purely an incidental effect. Alcohol has no direct value as a pain reliever. Quite to the contrary, the use of alcohol for pain management can cause serious problems, especially with excessive consumption or when mixing alcohol with pain medication.
Many over-the-counter pain medications (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen) can contribute to damage to internal organs, such as the stomach or liver. Alcohol can damage these same organs, so mixing alcohol with these medications significantly increases the risk of lasting damage to internal organs. Many prescription medications can cause side effects; one of the more common being drowsiness. Alcohol, as a central nervous system depressant, also causes drowsiness. Combining alcohol with a prescription medication not only significantly increases the likelihood of nausea, vomiting, and sleepiness, but also can significantly slow the body’s non-voluntary functions, leading to decreased heart rates, slowed breathing, sometimes resulting in death.
Alcohol can lead to one feeling sleepy, which many take as a sign that is a sleep aid. However, alcohol use can disrupt sleep patterns just as much as chronic pain can. Sleep deprivation can cause many types of harm to the body. Some of the more prominent effects of sleep deprivation are on emotional well-being: irritability, depression, and fatigue, both mental and physical. This has a negative impact on a person’s ability to cope with pain, making the pain feel more severe and the patient feel hopeless as to finding a resolution to the pain. This can lead some to a vicious cycle: Sleep deprivation leads to exacerbation of pain leads to alcohol consumption leads to disruption of sleep cycle leads to sleep deprivation, repeat, repeat, repeat.
While the temptation is understandable, alcohol consumption does not help with chronic pain relief. Talk with your doctor about your pain condition. He can not only help you determine the best course of treatment, but also the amount of alcohol consumption that is safe for you.