Is Alcohol Good For Pain Relief?

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Question: Is Alcohol Good For Pain Relief?

Answer: When I was a teenager, I was watching the movie, Papillon, and unfortunately this idea that alcohol could relieve pain was perpetuated by this movie because I remember there was this somewhat gruesome scene where a leg was amputated from one of the movie actors with the assistance of a bottle of brandy.

Alcohol has no direct pain-relieving properties. There is a strong relationship between chronic pain and anxiety and depression. And alcohol does have some transient benefits on mood that can help indirectly alleviate the patient's suffering from pain, but no direct effect on the pain itself.

In addition, you know, excessive alcohol use in the context of intensive pain management can be very harmful. We treat many types of pain with narcotic medications. These medicines are sedating. When you combine these with alcohol, there have been numerous reports of patients becoming over-sedated, unconscious, even going into coma and death.

So in general, we should not encourage a perception that alcohol relieves pain because, in fact, it puts patients at higher risk for complication from their pain medications.

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