Is There a Connection Between Drinking Less and Pain Relief?

Veteran in pain at home
Photo by PixelsEffect/

While the opiate problem in America tends to capture much of the headlines when it comes to addiction reporting, the U.S.’s alcohol problem is also a growing public health crisis. Drinking to excess causes a broad swath of health problems. It would follow then that cutting back on alcohol consumption would lead to positive health outcomes.

Is it possible that getting off of alcohol may also lead to some degree of pain relief? Researchers from New York City found compelling data that seems to suggest so.

Can Cutting Back on Alcohol Consumption Help Reduce Chronic Pain?

Thanks to the findings of a new study published by the Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research Journal, there is now reason to believe that reducing one’s alcohol consumption may coincide with a drop in chronic pain levels. The study examined about 1,500 U.S. veterans who answered survey questions from 2003 to 2015. Questions regarding heavy drinking trends and instances of chronic pain were asked throughout the study period.

“We found some evidence for improvement of pain interference symptoms and substance use after reducing drinking among U.S. veterans with unhealthy alcohol use.”

According to Ellen Caniglia, of the NYU School of Medicine in New York City and the lead author of the study, “We found some evidence for improvement of pain interference symptoms and substance use after reducing drinking among U.S. veterans with unhealthy alcohol use.”

In 2003 when the study began, nearly half of the 1,500 veterans reported struggling with moderate to severe chronic pain and heavy alcohol consumption. As the years passed, researchers followed up with those in the study group, questioning them about their pain levels and alcohol consumption.

According to the findings, reduced alcohol consumption was associated with better chances for reduced chronic pain. Furthermore, a reduction in alcohol consumption was also tied to a better chance of decreasing cigarette, cannabis, and cocaine use.

There is no doubt that further research is needed. While it is true that a drop in heavy drinking among veterans was associated with a decline in chronic pain levels, that does not necessarily mean that a reduction in drinking causes a decrease in pain levels. It’s just as likely that veterans who stopped drinking began making other, beneficial heath choices that had the additional benefit of reduced pain levels.

Sober man outside
Photo by AscentXmedia/

But even if there is no cause and effect relationship between cutting back on alcohol consumption and a drop in pain levels, there is ample evidence that reducing drinking does lead to positive health outcomes.

Reason Enough to Stop Drinking Alcohol

The biggest fallacy about alcohol consumption is that it is “okay” and “normal” to drink and that there are acceptable drinking levels. The truth is, there is no such thing as “safe” drinking. Even just having one drink puts one at risk and opens the door to harm.

As consumption escalates, so does risk. The more one drinks, the more likely they are to suffer adverse consequences of drinking. Such effects can lead all the way up to death. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 95,000 people die in the United States from alcohol-related causes every year. That’s more than the number of people who die in the U.S. each year from all drugs combined.

Drinking Too Much? Where to Turn for Help

Does someone you care about struggle with a drinking problem? While there is no doubting the immense health benefits that can come from ceasing one’s drinking, if one is addicted to alcohol, cutting back on consumption is not something they can do on their own.

Alcohol addiction is a severe and debilitating crisis that causes an untold physical, psychological, spiritual, and behavioral crisis for the person. When someone becomes hooked on alcohol, the problem will only worsen if they do not seek help. Tens of thousands of Americans die from alcohol-related causes each year because they did not get help for their drinking problem.

Don’t let your loved one become just another statistic. Narconon offers a unique, highly successful drug and alcohol addiction treatment program, one that can help your loved one get to the bottom of their addiction and uncover the aspects of it that have prevented them from putting down the bottle. Call Narconon today to take the first step towards helping them get better. And if they happen to struggle with chronic pain in addition to an alcohol dependency, it’s very possible that they may look forward to a reduction in pain levels too.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.