Reducing Drinking Among US Veterans with Unhealthy Alcohol Use Might Improve Chronic Pain Symptoms and Reduce Other Substance Use

US veterans with unhealthy alcohol use who reduce their drinking may gain some improvement in chronic pain symptoms and use of other substances, according to a study in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Hazardous drinking is common in the US, and frequently co-occurs with chronic pain, depression and anxiety, and with tobacco, cannabis or cocaine use. Many people use alcohol and other substances to mask or self-manage pain and psychiatric symptoms, although there is little evidence to support such use. If, conversely, a reduction in drinking (or use of treatment for alcohol misuse) were to benefit co-occurring conditions or substance use, this could support an integrated approach to screening or treatment. The new analysis assessed the impact of drinking reduction on improvement of chronic pain, psychiatric symptoms, and other substance use among US veterans with unhealthy alcohol use – a population with high rates of these co-occurring conditions.