Original Report| Volume 10, ISSUE 9, P944-952, September 2009

Self-Report of Alcohol Use for Pain in a Multi-Ethnic Community Sample


      This study examined the occurrence of alcohol use to manage pain in community-dwelling adults with tooth pain, jaw joint/face pain, and arthritis. Race/ethnicity, sex, and age were examined to determine their associations with alcohol use for pain. Community-dwelling adults from South Florida with tooth pain (n = 1,767), jaw joint/face pain (n = 1,199), or arthritis pain (n = 1,355) completed a structured telephone interview. Logistic regression models indicted that, similar to population rates, nonHispanic whites and males were the most likely to use alcohol to manage pain. In addition, alcohol use for pain was highest in younger adults. Individuals who self-managed oral pain with alcohol were more likely to use prescription and over-the-counter pain medications, but this association was not found for arthritis. Additional characteristics of individuals who self-medicated regardless of pain condition included greater pain frequency, depression, and higher levels of education. Being married was protective against the use of alcohol to manage pain symptoms. Use of alcohol for pain should be assessed during treatment evaluation so that physicians and other health care providers are aware of their patient's concomitant use of alcohol and pain medication, assess for psychosocial impairment, and make the appropriate referrals and adjustment to treatment.


      Self-medication of pain with alcohol is most common among younger nonHispanic white males and associated with pain frequency, depression, and use of pain medications. Alcohol use for pain needs to be assessed so that health care providers can make appropriate referrals and adjustments to treatment.

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