Alcohol abuse can harm a person’s body in many different ways, but if you are experiencing chest pains after consuming alcohol, the worst thing you could do is ignore it and assume it will go away. After drinking, experiencing chest pain could be a sign of cardiomyopathy, which is a disease that is exacerbated by excessive alcohol use and can result in heart failure.
When it comes to drinking alcohol and chest pain, the best course of action is to visit a health provider as soon as possible. Although online resources may have clues to identify potential health problems, a doctor will give a thorough evaluation to determine what is causing the pain and provide appropriate treatment for a healthy and sustainable recovery.
How Does Alcohol Impact the Heart?
Some people attempt to justify their alcohol use with research that has suggested moderate amounts of alcohol may help increase levels of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and protect the heart because of its abundant antioxidants. However, you can receive the same health benefits by engaging in exercise and consuming healthy foods and juices without ever drinking alcohol.
Although a small amount of alcohol use may provide health benefits, it’s mostly about moderation. Excessive drinking has long been linked to a long list of health issues, including heart problems.
Unhealthy drinking habits, such as long-term heavy drinking, binge drinking, or any other type of heavy alcohol consumption, can lead to the following:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart failure
Research has shown a correlation between chronic and excessive alcohol abuse and hypertension (high blood pressure.) Over time, this condition puts a lot of strain on the heart muscle, leading to strokes, heart attacks, and cardiovascular disease.
As a result, if you’ve been consuming excessive amounts of alcohol for years, chances are you likely need to reduce your use or stop drinking entirely if you want to prevent alcohol-related heart conditions.
Can Alcohol Cause Chest Pain?
Yes, alcohol use can sometimes result in chest pain, even in otherwise healthy persons. Instances of heart or chest pain and irregular heartbeat may be noticeable during hangovers or when an individual is experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Long-term excessive drinking will also make the heart muscle expand and weaken, leading to heart pain and disease.
Possible Causes of Chest Pain After Consuming Alcohol
Some persons may experience chest pain when drinking alcohol, and it can be mild or severe. Not surprisingly, consistent alcohol abuse can cause severe and common heart problems, so that any chest pain could be a symptom of a health condition or even a potentially life-threatening disorder. The following are some of the possible causes of chest pain after consuming alcohol:
Alcohol cardiomyopathy is a type of heart disease caused by alcohol use. It occurs when chronic alcohol abuse weakens and thins the heart muscle, inhibiting the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently. The disruption of blood flow impacts many primary bodily functions and can result in severe health problems or heart failure.
Most men and women who have alcohol cardiomyopathy have abused alcohol for 5-15 years. Although it’s a severe health condition, prompt treatment and discontinuing alcohol use may prevent it from worsening.
Hangover anxiety, also commonly known as hangxiety, involves experiencing the typical symptoms of a hangover (headache, nausea, etc.) and additional psychoemotional symptoms. Anxiety, especially, is a commonly reported symptom and may also manifest with chest tightness or pain. Alcohol-induced anxiety during an episode of drinking may also be an instigator of chest pain.
Occasionally pain in the lower chest can be a symptom of pancreatitis. If you have chronic pancreatitis, alcohol use can make it worse and damage the pancreas even more. About 70% of pancreatitis cases may be attributed to routine, excessive alcohol consumption. Regardless, the harm caused by pancreatitis may be permanent, so those experiencing chest pain that could be due to pancreatitis should visit a health provider as soon as possible.
Drug and Alcohol Interactions
If you are using prescription drugs for health reasons or abusing illicit drugs, such as meth or cocaine, interactions with these substances and alcohol may result in chest pain. Smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products can also irritate the lungs, but when used in conjunction, the two may increase blood pressure and worsen acid reflux, resulting in chest pain.
Excessive alcohol use can cause acid reflux, which can be highly unpleasant. Although consuming alcohol with certain foods can trigger acid reflux attacks, research has also shown alcohol abuse on its own can exacerbate symptoms of acid reflux if a person currently has it. This condition may also cause damage to the inner lining of the esophagus, potentially leading to esophageal cancer.
Alcohol can also be dehydrating, so when it is frequently abused in large amounts, it can severely disrupt the balance of electrolytes in the body. Dehydration and depleted levels of electrolytes can result in heart palpitations which may lead to chest pain.
Irritation of the lymph nodes induced by Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL) may present as pain in the chest. If a person has undiagnosed HL, he or she may experience chest pain when consuming alcohol. HL can be deadly, but treatment is likely to provide more beneficial outcomes if it is diagnosed in its early stages.
What If Alcohol Is Causing Chest Pain?
If you experience mild-severe heart pain after drinking alcohol, you should make an appointment with a health provider. Doing so will ensure that you can recognize any potential health issues or conditions as early as possible and get appropriate treatment.
Alcohol abuse can also cause a heart attack. For persons who experience any severe chest pain that radiates to other parts of their body (such as your arms or back) or you have difficulty breathing, and if symptoms persist for longer than 15 minutes, you should visit the emergency room.
How to Prevent Alcohol-Related Chest Pain
The best way to avoid alcohol chest pain is to reduce alcohol consumption or quit drinking. Seeing a health provider to determine the underlying cause of your chest pain will provide you with more education to make an educated decision about altering your drinking habits.
If you find that you can’t reduce your consumption or stop drinking alcohol, you likely have alcohol use disorder, which requires professional treatment. Other signs of alcoholism include the following:
- Encountering withdrawal symptoms when the effects of the alcohol subside
- Drinking more or for longer than intended
- Spending a significant amount of time drinking or recovering from it
- Continuing to consume alcohol even although it’s causing problems with one’s health, relationships, and work
- Requiring more alcohol to experience the desired effects (tolerance)
- Experiencing intense cravings or urges to drink alcohol
Get Help for Alcohol Addiction
You may have chest pain after drinking alcohol, but you still can’t seem to moderate or stop your drinking. If this is you, you may have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease that often requires more than just willpower to overcome it.
Discontinuing alcohol use and maintaining long-term sobriety may not be easy, but it’s a life-altering decision that few people regret. A medically assisted detox followed by a long-term, comprehensive rehab program can ensure that you get sober safely and comfortably with professional support.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer an integrated approach to addiction treatment, including psychotherapy, counseling, group support, mindfulness therapy, aftercare planning, and much more.