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Analgesic effects of alcohol: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled experimental studies in healthy participants

Analgesic effects of alcohol: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled experimental studies in healthy participants

Thompson, Trevor, Oram, Charlotte, Correll, Christoph U., Tsermentseli, Stella and Stubbs, Brendon (2016) Analgesic effects of alcohol: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled experimental studies in healthy participants. The Journal of Pain, 18 (5). pp. 499-510. ISSN 1526-5900 (Print), 1528-8447 (Online) (doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2016.11.009)

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Abstract

Despite the long-standing belief in the analgesic properties of alcohol, experimental studies have produced mixed results. This meta-analysis aimed to clarify whether alcohol produces a decrease in experimentally-induced pain and to determine the magnitude of any such effect. PubMed, PsycINFO and Embase databases were searched from inception until 21/4/2016 for controlled studies examining the effect of quantified dosages of alcohol on pain response to noxious stimulation. Eighteen studies involving 404 participants were identified providing alcohol vs. no-alcohol comparisons for 13 tests of pain threshold (N=212) and 9 tests of pain intensity ratings (N=192). Random effects meta- analysis of standardized mean differences (SMD) provided robust support for analgesic effects of alcohol. A mean blood alcohol content (BAC) of approximately 0.08% (3-4 standard drinks) produced a small elevation of pain threshold (SMD=0.35[0.17, 0.54], p=.002), and a moderate-large reduction in pain intensity ratings, (SMD=0.64[0.37, 0.91], p<.0001), or equivalently, a mean reduction of 1.25 points on a 0-10 point pain rating scale. Furthermore, increasing BAC resulted in increasing analgesia, with each .02% BAC increment producing an increase of SMD=.11 for pain threshold and SMD=.20 for reduced pain intensity. Some evidence of publication bias emerged, but statistical correction methods suggested minimal impact on effect size. Taken together, findings suggest that alcohol is an effective analgesic that delivers clinically- relevant reductions in ratings of pain intensity, which could explain alcohol misuse in those with persistent pain despite its potential consequences for long- term health. Further research is needed to corroborate these findings for clinical pain states.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: "This is a PDF file of an unedited manuscript that has been accepted for publication. As a service to our customers we are providing this early version of the manuscript. The manuscript will undergo copyediting, typesetting, and review of the resulting proof before it is published in its final form. Please note that during the production process errors may be discovered which could affect the content, and all legal disclaimers that apply to the journal pertain."
Uncontrolled Keywords: Pain; Alcohol; Ethanol; Analgesia; Review; Meta-analysis
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Education & Health
Faculty of Education & Health > Department of Family Care & Mental Health
Faculty of Education & Health > Department of Psychology, Social Work & Counselling
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2018 11:35
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: GREAT b
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/16077

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