"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Study: Chronic alcohol consumption can increase pain sensitivity

April 24, 2023 – Studies on mice led scientists to conclude that chronic alcohol consumption could make people more sensitive to pain in two ways – through alcohol intake and alcohol withdrawal, based on a study just published within the British Journal of Pharmacology.

The findings could assist in the event of medication to combat alcohol-related chronic pain and hypersensitivity reactions within the 29.5 million alcoholics within the United States, the researchers said.

“There is an urgent need to better understand the interaction between chronic pain and alcohol dependence,” said Marisa Roberto, lead creator and professor of neuroscience at Scripps Research, in a Press release“Pain is both a common symptom in patients with alcohol dependence and a reason that drives sufferers to drink again.”

The research team studied three groups of mice: some were hooked on alcohol, some weren't addicted but had limited access to alcohol, and a few had no access to alcohol.

During withdrawal, dependent mice developed allodynia, wherein a harmless stimulus is painful. The dependent mice also showed reduced sensitivity to pain when given alcohol again. Mice with limited access to alcohol also showed increased sensitivity to pain during withdrawal, but unlike the dependent mice, they didn't show reduced sensitivity when given alcohol again.

The researchers measured inflammatory proteins and located a rise within the addicted mice. These proteins could possibly be utilized in drug development, the researchers said.

“These two types of pain are very different, so it is important to be able to distinguish between them and develop different treatments for each type,” said lead creator Vittoria Borgonetti, a postdoctoral fellow at Scripps Research.

The press release states that greater than half of individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD) experience some sort of ongoing pain, including nerve damage that causes chronic pain. AUD can be related to changes in how the brain processes pain signals and prompts the immune system, which might result in increased alcohol consumption.