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Prevalence of Alcohol as Self-Medication for Pain Assessed

Last Updated: October 05, 2009.

The use of alcohol as a self-management strategy for orofacial pain and arthritis raises concerns about potential interactions between alcohol and pain medications, according to research published in the September issue of the Journal of Pain.

MONDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- The use of alcohol as a self-management strategy for orofacial pain and arthritis raises concerns about potential interactions between alcohol and pain medications, according to research published in the September issue of the Journal of Pain.

Joseph L. Riley III, Ph.D., and Christopher King, Ph.D., of the University of Florida in Gainesville, analyzed data from more than 4,300 adults with tooth pain, jaw joint/face pain, or arthritis pain.

The researchers found that the use of alcohol for pain management across these problems ranged from 25 to 28 percent. Men were more likely to use alcohol for all types of pain, and alcohol use for pain was more common in young adults. Non-Hispanic Caucasians were more likely to have used alcohol for all three types of pain than Hispanics or African-Americans. Higher education level was associated with alcohol use for all of the types of pain. In addition, the authors note, depression was a predictor of alcohol use.

"These findings serve to alert clinicians to assess for alcohol use in patients being treated for pain and to provide education about the problems associated with mixing alcohol with pain medications. In addition, other factors such as depression or the lack of appropriate support networks may suggest the need to make appropriate referrals," the authors conclude.

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