Alcohol and pain or morphine?

Hi, I'm wondering if anyone else finds that alcohol dumbs down the pain in a similar way to morphine? I've taken myself off morphine as it made me feel so 'out of it' and I wanted to try to be a better parent ( I'm a single mum, although youngest is 12).

I find that a couple of glasses of wine lowers the pain so I can cook the dinner or do the washing.

I hope its ok to ask you on this site for advise, as I don't know where else to go for help.

Thanks, Ro

30 Replies

  • I would think, there are quite a lot of people doing as you do to cope with pain. I find my body can cope better with wine rather than prescription drugs for pain. The only thing, I would say is to make sure you drink plenty of water to compensate and help the kidneys. And making sure you drink some water before you go to bed.

  • I too have found that a couple of glasses of red wine help enormously with pain and sleep. I now can't take pain killers. As I have developed Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and can take no medication. I just have to watch that as I don't appear to get drunk that I don't drink more than a couple large glasses a night. Out of respect for my liver!

  • Yes it can dull pain a bit, but its very easy for alcohol use to escalate and you end up with more problems from that than from the original disease. Also, be aware that if you are also on pain meds or other meds, alcohol may hasten liver disease or other problems. Remember too that recommended weekly limits for women are quite low, and if you are having two normal sized glasses a day, then you will certainly be going over the recommended amounts (which means liver disease is much more likely). I think the main way that alcohol works is as a relaxant, so if you can find other techniques to help you relax, then that will be much much better in the long run.

    Also, something I discovered about chronic pain was that you don't have to always completely get rid of pain. Sometimes just getting it down one point on the pain scale is enough to allow you to keep on functioning, and you can often do that one point decrease with non-medical methods like relaxation, heat, ice, or things like TENS machines. If you can do that, then you can save the heavy opiates for times when you really can't cope with the pain, but when you can also afford to have a bit of knockout time where you don't have to do your usual daily activity or responsibilities.

  • I agree with you 100%. It is very easy for a person's tolerance to alcohol, as with pain meds, to increase without them noticing. What started out as a glass of wine whilst making your meal, suddenly becomes a glass of wine whilst making the meal, one with the meal and then one watching the soaps. Just when you have the taste for the wine you think 'another wine will not make any difference' and before long what started as one glass of wine each night becomes two bottles of wine each night or worse, as your tolerance increases, you start to drink spirits. By the time you get to this level, and believe me, it happens to many, many people you can't cope without the alcohol. I highly recommend NOT to drink any alcohol to cope with your pain but to discuss the problems you are having with your pain/ medication i.e. felling out of it, with your GP/Pain manager. They will be able to change your medication to suit you even offering alternative therapies i.e. TENS, acupuncture, meditation. The last thing you want is to become hooked on alcohol and then have to be detoxed. Detox wards are full of people who said 'it'll never happen to me'. Remember, no-one wakes up one morning and says to themselves 'Today I am going to become an alcoholic' and that is the problem with alcohol, by the time you realise you have a problem you need help.This sounds dramatic but it is so easily done. Once you have been down the alcohol road GPs etc will refrain from offering you certain medications because when mixed alcohol there is a very strong possibility that you could die. Not necessarily from liver damage but from choking on vomit when you are sleeping or you stop breathing.

    This means that your pain will not diminish because the strong meds needed to treat you can not be given to you for fear of you mixing them with alcohol. What would you rather have - detox followed by pain for the rest of your condition or being pain free and sticking to alcohol free drinks?

    As someone who has worked in a detox centre I implore everyone not to resort to alcohol to relieve your pain. The emotional pain caused can be worse than the physical pain you are suffering. Please visit your GP if you feel that your meds do not suit you or they are not providing sufficient pain relief.


  • Hi

    I agree although alcohol seems like a good idea at the time .. there are many dangers .. I did the same thing when I was clutching onto the my career. I got into the habit of one more bottle of Stella may just stop the pain .. Clearly it did not . Alcohol is also a depressive and many people with depression (with pain) use it in an attempt to lift their spirits.. I worked as a Probation officer for 21 years and have seen it first hand. If it helps use it ..... but please, please be very disciplined.. If Alcohol was discovered now if would be a Class A drug based on the harm and deaths it causes .I know of people as young as 28who have died from dependency .. Sorry to be dramatic .... May I ask what causes your pain ?

    Big Hug am sure you are an excellent Mum x

  • I've worked with kids with special needs for 25 years and am clutching on to my job ....not looking good! So sad about this as I love my job! Did you have to give up work? It must have been incredibly demanding.

    Thanks for the advice, see my other reply just now to what's wrong- very frustrating lack of diagnosis yet huge pain..


  • Thanks for all these ideas- that's so helpful. I find I get stressed so quickly, even just someone asking me to do something that's difficult or requires movement, so then wine helps to calm me and stop tears.

    I will drink more water and try to make sure there are days when I don't have a drink, but then I may need morphine so I'm not sure if that's better?

    Does anyone struggle to appear OK to their children? I find it a struggle to appear positive and calm when the pain escalates,a nd as I don't have a partner there is no one else to support them. Do you tell them about your pain and what it feels like?

    Sorry to keep asking but I feel a bit like I'm not managing very well and not being the type of mum I want to be...

  • Depends how old your kids are but you shouldn't hide everything from them, they need to know its ok to cry, be bit low even angry sometimes as long as you tell them it's not their fault. My daughters now 18 and I have always been very open and honest with her about feelings (but not used her as a pseudo partner), she is now a very caring and confident young adult. You don't have to go into huge detail or frighten them but the mere fact that you're asking the question tells me you're a great mum. Try not to worry about protecting them from 'life' too much, they'll only take in what they can manage then maybe ask questions another time. Kids are very resilient and probably worry much less than you imagine. Go steady on the alcohol though and hope you've a friend or family you can talk to. It's tough but you're doing great!

  • Thanks, Lizziebelts, for the reassurance about your daughter. Mine seems to go from cuddly to frustrated and cross with me, but she is 12 so I guess hormones don't help! Good to hear yours has turned out so balanced!

  • In hindsight, I realise my mum was very often in bad pain when I was a child, but I would never have known then. What I did know was that dad was the one we went to when it was physical activity outside, and mum was the one for quiet stories, lots of talking, and crafty stuff. She just did lots of stuff that was easy for her to do with us - even if it was from an armchair. We went to her rather than her coming to us. I guess the way to cope is to look after yourself, and you will find the children will come to you, will get you things, and be generally quite sensitive, even if they don't really realise what is going on. You may not need to even mention pain - but explain it as "can you get that for me, as its a bit hard for me to right now", or instead of going to them to play, ask them to bring their toys to you. If you need a rest, have them snuggle up to you on the sofa, and they will really appreciate the together time. Do what you can to make life simple too - cook extra and freeze it for the days you don't feel like cooking, get the kids to wipe down the shower every time its used, and take their clothes to the washing machine, etc. Lots of little things like that will take the pressure off you. And no, In general I wouldn't tell your children about your pain. Thats an adult thing and not something they should have to worry about. Find an adult friend who understands. I think you can tell children about your limitations - like "I can't stand for too long", or "I can only do things for an hour before I need a rest", or "I can't bend over, so I need you to help me", etc, but its too easy to make children very worried if you involve them in your pain or talk about illness too much. As I said, I never knew there was anything wrong with my mother when I was a child, but I now know there were many times when she was in severe pain. You can still be a very good mother, even if you can't do the same as other mothers. Just be the mother you are, not the one you think you ought to be.

  • I have ME and fibromyalgia and I am no longer able to process alcohol. Even just the smallest amount goes straight to my head these days and my kidneys and liver very quickly feel like they are struggling to process it. What with that and the medications I am on I hardly drink anymore, just things like a toast at a wedding and that's it.

    Yes when I was still drinking it did used to numb the pain. But the other issue is it doesn't help with sleep. Yes it makes you feel sleepy and you can drift off quicker but the problem is it is the wrong sort of sleep. Apparently you don't tend to go into restorative sleep when you have been drinking which is why you often wake up feeling unrefreshed. As unrefreshing sleep is a big problem with ME anyway that's another reason I avoid alcohol rather than making things even worse than they already are.

  • Ok, message received re dangers of alcohol, thanks. I'm seeing the pain consultant again this week after a long wait. Last time he said he had drawn a blank and that when he gave me morphine. I already used tens and had tried accupuncture. I'll keep looking for alternatives!

  • Wine has been a good friend to me over the years coping with pain and family life. Yes, it's easy to abuse (like lots of things) when you're having a particularly bad day but on the whole if you can stick to 2 units to get you through dinner then it's worth it in my view. Wine works better than any pain meds I've ever taken and I haven't needed to increase the 'dose' to get the same effect on the pain. Sadly, it's expensive which helps to stop abuse and any potential harmful effects. No one knows why booze works on pain but it does. It's important to be present for your kids and dinner time is a crucial time in the day. If a couple of glasses of wine helps keep you with it for your kids then it's a god send. I would only say don't have it too close to bed time as it disrupts sleep and you need your sleep. Tearfulness indicates you are struggling to cope even with wine so perhaps consider GP for a course of antidepressants... What treatment are you getting for the problem that is actually causing the pain? 😜

  • Well I hadn't really thought about the tearfulness like that. I really hate to think that I'm depressed as that makes it sound like I'm not coping and have lost control, both of which are, in fact, probably true!! I'm seeing a homeopath/ natural medicine/ physician this week so will talk to him about it. Thanks for pointing it out in such an understanding and non judgemental way.

  • My youngest was 3 when my pain problem started so I know how hard it is coping with family, pain, oneself in pain etc.. I fought hard for years but in the end best result for me was actually a 6 month course of Duloxetine and now a consultant who has been very helpful with facet joint injections. Sorry to make the next blunt statement but I wasted decades of time and money on snake oil and homeopathy is in that category for me... Sincere best wishes 😜

  • Hello Boozybird

    Actually people do know why alcohol numbs pain -it's an anaesthetic, . Years ago dentists and doctors used alcohol as the primary method to numb patients before procedures. And alcohol dependency due to chronic physical pain (which can lead to emotional suffering as well) is a common problem for those who self medicate using alcohol.

    Hope you find this useful.


  • I meant the bio/chemical pathways. As far as I know they haven't been fully researched. Drugs get researched as there is money to be made.

  • Hi Ro, you are right alcohol does numb pain or dull it, but like Morphine it is addictive and eventually you need more for the same effect. If it works try to keep it to a minimum like you are and you should not become addicted. Of course none of these things cure the pain they are just cures for symptom relief . Keep up with whats best for you , take carex

  • Yes it does damp down pain a bit but its as damaging to your body as morphine ( I think) . Just like with morphine the amount you need to dull the pain will increase and then its just as dangerous for you around the kids.

    I do sympathise with the morphine ' brain fog'. I can't remember from one day to the next what I've been doing. The odd evening with a good glass of wine is fine ( oh how I miss it since I can't drink with MST) but every night is leading to trouble I'd say.

  • Best pain killer to me is vodka which is my drink its gives me 6 hours of sleep do not do it ever night but enjoy when I do, if two glasses of wine works for you just enjoy better then all the meds they give us, soon will be 60 did not turn me in to alcoholic.

  • :) Usually if you have to ask the question, you already know the answer. Being a single mum, is really hard, but absolutely not impossible, it's ok to ask for help, actually the very smart thing to do. Tell friends and family you need help, if they don't help, maybe if you can afford take out some nights a week, to give yourself a break. Some people are ok with alcohol and some just bluntly, are not. I personally found alcohol to be a brilliant releif, sometimes I wonder where I would be without it and also what's going to happen to me if I stop, will the unbearable, all debilitating pain come back??? Bottom line is would I tell my daughter to deal with pain with alcohol? NO. Support is absolutely crucial, for every 8 no way we will help, carry on asking some one will, try your GP first, community organizations, the church, neighbors, friends family, your childrens school...What is wrong? ? I have an inherited genetic disease called Progressive Episodic Ataxia, my pain usually comes from "injuries". Sometimes I become legally blind and with no ability to balance, I really do get hurt. Never been so honest in my life! Who'd have thought!! Hun get support, all the opinions on here that you've been given, are just brilliant :)

  • Wow, you sound like your situation is so painful and truly hard- I am so inspired at your positivity and determination. If you can do it, then surely I can! Asking for help seems harder the more pain I am in, which seems ridiculous, but I feel like it should be obvious to those around me as they surely can see how much I am struggling?? They DONT, so perhaps I need to ask more.

    I tend to go to my GP for requests for referrals to specialists or clinics I have read about or been recommended on this site, or a different set of meds I've GP is lovely but not a specialist in this area. My sister is a GP too, and perhaps such a painful discovery was that she doesn't understand the level of pain and the impact on me and my kids, even after I've tried to explain it.

    They don't agree what's wrong with me. I've got 2 tears in a disc where the pain is and a cyst in a nearby disc, but apart from wear and tear, nothing else obvious....

    Take care, Ro

  • Hi, I agree with the others who have highlighted the dangers of alcohol. Just a thought: the only reason why alcohol is not a drug is its place in history.

    If alcohol hadn't had such a long history it would be considered as much of a drug as anything else we get from the pharmacy! It has its uses but also its side effects. Furthermore it is addictive.

    Use it with your eyes open but don't kid yourself that it isn't an addictive drug

  • Hi Ropes,

    My mother self medicated with alcohol & died aged 56 of a bleed in her stomach directly related to her alcohol addiction. She thought she could handle it. Sadly she could not.

    I have lived with my chronic pain monster for over 15 years & take medications prescribed by my pain management consultant & my brilliant GP. I drink the odd glass of wine which knocks me out. It also gives me vivid dreams & I always wake with a headache. Now I agree morphine does give you brain fog, but this does lift over time at least a little. Also I dread to think what my brain would be like if I constantly had to deal with extreme pain? To be honest, I wouldn't have a life & the impact on my children would be greater than me on pain meds. It's s fine balancing act.

    Your daughter is the same age as my daughter when I started on morphine. My daughter's incredibly close to me & my pain issues affected her more than anyone. She's had some individual counselling & we also had some family therapy. I would recommend this if it's available to you or individual counselling for you. Sounds like you give a lot to others; however, maybe you need to focus on you? You are an extremely important person after-all!

    Lastly is it worth getting a second opinion? It's hard enough dealing with the normal troubles we experience daily without adding pain into the picture! Also give yourself a gentle pat on the back because there is no way I could manage a job when my pain was so bad I was offered morphine. You're doing brilliantly well.

  • Such an encouraging stream of words. Thanks! Unfortunately I can't get into work so they come to me whenever they need help. On a good day I can manage about an hour, I lie flat and we discuss. On a bad day I cancel! Not a lot of work..... Perhaps I should say instead that its good I'm doing a tiny bit! :)

  • Hi just quick one, had back problems for 55 years gave up pain killers years ago,

    They will end up giving you more problems, and forget alcohol, unless you want to be an alcoholic, all these things will dull your pain as they dull your brain, but

    They wear off and you have to take more, and you end up in a total mess or worse, a relation of mine took pain killers and anti depressants, he ended up like a zombie and tried to take his own life,

    I don't know the causes of your pain, so that's the only advise I can give at the moment,

    Regards Bryan

  • Hi , I think alcohol helps you tolerate the pain but doesn't ease the pain and a hangover wont help . I'm good at giving advice but I terrible at doing myself, all the best 😊

  • Thanks everyone, such helpful and encouraging comments. Amazing how we all manage to get through the pain in our own way, but at the same time we can share experiences !

  • Ropes,

    I was born with Spina Bifida & at the grand old age of 30, was finally also diagnosed with Tethered Cord Syndrome. (Years of weird symptoms all dismissed as unrelated to each other). These elongated titles equate to the fact that my vertebrae didn't grow correctly which meant the spinal cord bulged out, was split into 2 in the lumbar region & was stuck down in multiple places. Also have a malformed vertebre at T11/10 which I think is still causing no problems.. I haven't been able to work for quite a few years & envy you even if you can only do a small amount of work. As long as you can do this/your employer allows, keep going. This is going to be better than pain medications or alcohol. Just don't overdo it!

  • Everyone in the posts above, is dealing with pain on their own way. It's probably not helpful to compare morphine with alcohol. I have a personal view, tailored to my personal pain. I have two medium sized glasses of red every night, with dinner, one while cooking, one while eating. If I really want another half glass, I have it. I am sensitive to most pain meds so cannot tolerate them. I do not feel endangered by moderate alcohol consumption. It is in fact a food and is digested and processed as food, with perhaps more liver activity than other foods and toxic if too much is taken. It not only helps a little with my pain, I blinking well enjoy it. Pain is affecting our general wellbeing anyway, as are pain meds for those who can take them. Perfect health is unlikely to be ours, just choose and use wisely, is my advice.

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