According to experts from the University of Greenwich in a study, alcohol can reduce pain levels by almost a quarter. A 0.08 percent elevation in the body's alcohol content will reportedly raise the body's pain threshold, and in doing so, cause a moderate to large reduction in pain intensity ratings. But can drinking beer really be more effective than pain relievers?
The researchers conducted a comprehensive meta-analysis of data from 18 experiments with more than 400 people. The participants were exposed to different types of pain, such as cold, heat and pressure, while their vital signs were closely monitored. In some of the experiments, some participants received two mugs of beer, while others received pain reliever tablets.
Drink beer or pills?
The researchers found that beer was a more effective pain reliever than Tylenol (also known as acetaminophen or paracetamol), although more research is required to determine the mechanism by which alcohol produces this effect. They are still not sure if it reduces the activity of nociceptors (pain detectors) in the brain or decreases anxiety, which, in turn, will decrease the perception of pain.
“The results suggest that alcohol is an effective pain reliever that offers clinically relevant reductions in pain intensity ratings, which could explain alcohol abuse in people with persistent pain, despite its potential health consequences to long term.
“We found strong evidence that alcohol is an effective pain reliever. Drinking about four units of alcohol, about two medium beer mugs or wine glasses, resulted in a 24 percent drop in people's pain ratings. "
Comparable to opioids
Opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and inhibiting the transport of pain messages to the cerebral cortex. This will tell your body that it is pain free and significantly reduce your perception of the sensation, although this relief is generally short-lived and comes at a high price to pay afterward.
He also recognized that alcohol's potential pain relievers should not be exploited directly. "If we can make a drug without the harmful side effects, then we could have something that is potentially better than what is available right now."
"The amount of alcohol consumption necessary to provide any type of sustained long-term pain relief could lead to a number of serious health problems and even increase the likelihood of developing a persistent long-term pain condition,"
This is not a license to drink
While the study is interesting, alcohol will only do you more harm than good in the long run. If you are dealing with pain beyond the reach of prescription pills, it is good practice to consult your doctor and discuss alternative treatments.
Everyone's tolerance for alcohol is not the same. Two mugs of beer can significantly numb pain for one person, but for another, they can induce some short-term side effects, such as:
· Blurry vision
· Difficulty expressing
· Excessive urination
· Breathing difficulties
Some long-term side effects of chronic alcohol use include:
· Liver disease
· Respiratory infections
· Cardiovascular diseases
· Nerve damage
· Brian's degeneration
· Multiple types of cancers
This equates to six beer jars or six 175ml wine glasses. Six mugs of beer are the same as six standard drinks.
Compared to the US alcohol consumption guidelines, the difference is striking, as the United States recommends no more than 14 standard drinks per week (7 for women), which is two mugs of beer a day (1 for women).
A study published in The Lancet even showed that US guidelines can reduce a person's life expectancy. So, alcohol for short-term pain? Maybe, but definitely not for chronic pain.
Drinking beer in moderation is important, and not just beer, any type of alcohol (yes, we all know that). If you want to stop or not drink at all, that's great and no one will tell you to do otherwise. The bottom line? This is an interesting study, but we are not suggesting that you think of beer or any alcoholic beverage as your pain reliever drink of choice.