Is alcohol now a better pain reliever than Acetaminophen‬‬?

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Well here’s something to drink to: a new study from the University of Greenwich’s Journal of Pain suggests that alcohol might be a better pain reliever than Acetaminophen‬‬ and other common pain relievers.

The study suggests that alcohol contained analgesic, or pain relieving effects. According to their researchers, a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08%, or three to four standard drinks, provides a small increase in pain threshold. The research also suggests that “higher blood alcohol content is associated with greater analgesia”, and “a moderate decrease in pain ratings was also observed”.

From the Journal of Pain study, titled Analgesic Effects of Alcohol: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Experimental Studies in Healthy Participants:

Despite the long-standing belief in the analgesic properties of alcohol, experimental studies have produced mixed results. This meta-analysis aimed to clarify whether alcohol produces a decrease in experimentally-induced pain and to determine the magnitude of any such effect. PubMed, PsycINFO, and Embase databases were searched from inception until April 21, 2016 for controlled studies examining the effect of quantified dosages of alcohol on pain response to noxious stimulation. Some evidence of publication bias emerged, but statistical correction methods suggested minimal impact on effect size. Taken together, findings suggest that alcohol is an effective analgesic that delivers clinically-relevant reductions in ratings of pain intensity, which could explain alcohol misuse in those with persistent pain despite its potential consequences for long-term health. Further research is needed to corroborate these findings for clinical pain states.

This meta-analysis provides robust evidence for the analgesic properties of alcohol, which could potentially contribute to alcohol misuse in pain patients. Strongest analgesia occurs for alcohol levels exceeding World Health Organization guidelines for low-risk drinking and suggests raising awareness of alternative, less harmful pain interventions to vulnerable patients may be beneficial.

Knowing this, make sure never to mix alcohol with other pain relievers. According to WebMD, alcohol can either render some pain relievers useless, or amplify their effects to become toxic to the body. Drugs known to alleviate or cure allergies, colds, flu, depression, anxiety, coughing, blood pressure, and diabetes are known to interact poorly when alcohol is in the body. Most importantly, Alcohol is still tied to long-term negative effects, such as brain, heart, and liver damage, so make sure to think twice before alcohol will be the sole solution for pain relief.

Their researchers also warn that further research will be needed to confirm these findings, perhaps due to alcohol’s negative effects, so don’t celebrate just yet.

But, cracking open a brew after a long day can help you relax and ease the pain. Just make sure to do so responsibly!

Sources and references: University of Greenwich, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, WebMD

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Jed Belaguas

Jed Belaguas is a content marketer, amateur web developer and copywriter, well versed in writing blogs, press releases, and editorial articles.