Chest Pain After Drinking Alcohol: Causes and Treatment for Alcohol Addiction (2022)

Table of contents

  • How Does Alcohol Affect the Heart?
  • Can Alcohol Cause Chest Pain?
  • Possible Causes of Chest Pain After Drinking Alcohol
  • What To Do If Alcohol Is Causing Chest Pain
  • How to Prevent Alcohol Chest Pain
  • Get Help for Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol abuse can harm your body in many different ways, but if your chest hurts after drinking alcohol, the worst thing you could do is ignore it and hope it will go away. Experiencing chest pain after drinking alcohol could be a sign of cardiomyopathy, which is a condition that is worsened by heavy alcohol use and can cause heart failure.

When it comes to alcohol and chest pain, the best course of action is always to see a doctor as soon as possible. Although online resources may provide clues to identify potential health problems, a doctor will provide a thorough assessment to identify what is causing the pain and provide proper treatment for a healthy recovery.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Heart?

Some people like to justify their alcohol consumption with scientific studies that have suggested moderate amounts of alcohol (specifically red wine) may help increase levels of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and protect the heart due to its rich antioxidants. However, you can get the same health benefits with exercise and healthy foods, without ever sipping alcohol.

Although a small amount of alcohol consumption may provide health benefits, it’s all about moderation. Heavy drinking has long been linked to a long list of health problems, including heart conditions. Unhealthy drinking habits, such as chronic heavy drinking, binge drinking, or any other type of excessive alcohol consumption can lead to:1,2

(Video) Do You Get Chest Pains After Drinking Alcohol? Here's Why

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Stoke
  • Cardiomyopathy (a disorder that affects the heart muscle)
  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD)
  • Heart failure

Research studies provide a very clear correlation between chronic and excessive alcohol abuse and high blood pressure. Over time, hypertension puts a lot of strain on the heart muscle, which can lead to heart attacks, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.

As a result, if you’ve been drinking excessive amounts of alcohol for months or years, chances are you likely need to cut back or stop drinking completely if you want to avoid alcohol-related heart problems.

Can Alcohol Cause Chest Pain?

Yes, alcohol may sometimes cause chest pain even in seemingly healthy individuals. Instances of heart pain or chest pain and irregular heartbeat may be noticeable during hangovers or when a person is experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Chronic heavy drinking will also make the heart muscle expand and weaken, which can lead to heart pain and heart disease.

Possible Causes of Chest Pain After Drinking Alcohol

Some people may experience chest pain when drinking alcohol and it can be mild or severe. Not surprisingly, consistent alcohol abuse can cause serious and common heart problems, so any chest pain could be an indicator of a health problem or even a potentially life-threatening health condition. Here are some of the possible causes of chest pain after drinking alcohol.

(Video) Alcohol Dependence & Withdrawal

  1. Alcohol Cardiomyopathy

Alcohol cardiomyopathy is a form of heart disease that is caused by alcohol abuse. It occurs when long-term alcohol abuse weakens and thins the heart muscle, which inhibits your heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently. The disruption of blood flow affects lots of major bodily functions and can lead to serious health problems or even heart failure. Most men and women who suffer from alcohol cardiomyopathy have abused alcohol for 5 to 15 years.3 Although it’s a very serious health problem, prompt treatment and giving up alcohol completely may prevent it from getting worse.

  1. Hangover Anxiety

Hangover anxiety, also known as hangxiety, involves experiencing the usual symptoms of a hangover (headache, nausea, sensitivity to light, etc.) but with additional psychological symptoms too. Anxiety, in particular, is a commonly reported symptom and may also present with chest tightness or chest pain. Alcohol-induced anxiety during a night of drinking may also be a culprit of chest pain.

  1. Pancreatitis

Sometimes, pain in the lower chest can also be a sign of pancreatitis. If you have chronic pancreatitis, alcohol consumption can make it worse and damage your pancreas even more. About 70 percent of pancreatitis cases may be attributable to chronic, heavy alcohol consumption.4 Regardless, the damage caused by pancreatitis may be irreversible so if you are experiencing chest pain that could be due to pancreatitis, you should see a doctor immediately.

  1. Alcohol and Drug Interactions

If you are taking prescription drugs for health reasons or you’re abusing other drugs like cocaine, interactions with these substances and alcohol may cause chest pain. Smoking cigarettes can also irritate the lungs, but when combined with alcohol, the two can increase blood pressure and exacerbate acid reflux, which may also result in chest pain.

(Video) Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy - Symptoms, Treatment, Cardiac Effects

  1. Acid Reflux

Excessive alcohol consumption can cause acid reflux, which can be extremely uncomfortable. Although drinking alcohol with certain foods can trigger acid reflux attacks, studies also show alcohol abuse on its own can worsen symptoms of acid reflux if you already have it and may also damage the inner lining of your esophagus.5

  1. Dehydration

Alcohol can also be very dehydrating, so when it is regularly abused in large quantities, it can severely disrupt the balance of electrolytes in your body. Dehydration and depleted levels of electrolytes can lead to heart palpitations which may cause chest pain.6

  1. Undiagnosed Cancer

Irritation of the lymph nodes caused by Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL) may sometimes present as pain in the chest.7 If you have undiagnosed HL, you may experience chest pain when drinking alcohol. HL can be deadly but if it is diagnosed in its early stages, treatment is likely to provide more favorable outcomes.

What To Do If Alcohol Is Causing Chest Pain

If you experience mild or severe heart pain after drinking, you should see a doctor. Doing so will ensure that you can identify any possible health problems or conditions as early as possible and get proper treatment. Ignoring the problem or delaying a visit to a medical health professional may result in serious health problems or more discomfort due to other physical symptoms.

(Video) How does alcohol affect your heart?

Alcohol abuse can also trigger a heart attack, so if you experience any severe chest pain that radiates to other parts of your body (such as your arms or back), you have difficulty breathing, and the symptoms last for longer than 15 minutes, you should go to the hospital.8

How to Prevent Alcohol Chest Pain

The best way to prevent alcohol chest pain is to cut back on your alcohol consumption or stop drinking. Seeing a doctor to determine the underlying cause of your chest pain will provide you with more information so you can make an educated decision about changing your drinking habits.

If you find that you can’t cut back or stop drinking alcohol, you likely have alcohol use disorder, which will require treatment. Other signs of alcohol addiction include:9

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the effects of the alcohol wear off
  • Drinking much more or longer than you intended
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from drinking
  • Continuing to drink even though it’s causing problems with your health, relationships, and work
  • Needing more alcohol to achieve the effects you desire (developing a tolerance)
  • Feeling strong cravings or urges to drink alcohol

Get Help for Alcohol Addiction

Maybe you have chest pain after drinking alcohol but you still can’t seem to moderate your drinking or stop altogether. If this sounds like you, you may have alcohol use disorder (AUD). Alcohol addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that requires more than just your willpower to overcome it. You’ll likely need professional detox to stop drinking and residential or outpatient rehab to make positive behavioral changes that will help you stay sober.

(Video) What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Drinking Alcohol

Quitting alcohol and staying sober isn’t easy, but it’s a life-changing decision that you surely won’t regret. A medically-assisted alcohol detox program can ensure that you get sober safely and comfortably with professional support.

Start your new sober life today by calling (888) 857-0557. A Briarwood admissions representative is waiting to take your call and answer any questions you have about alcohol detox treatment.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5513687/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1993990/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholism/cardiomyopathy
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3574589/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2880354/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5079212/
  7. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/hodgkin-lymphoma/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-and-symptoms.html
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/heart_attack.htm
  9. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders/

FAQs

How do you get rid of alcohol chest pain? ›

Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can cause alcohol-related chest pain to go away. Drinking water can help the dehydration that may be contributing to one's chest pain. One should never ignore chest pain.

What happens if your chest hurts after drinking? ›

Well, alcohol causes chest pain because it increases blood pressure, which causes an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), which then reduces blood flow to the heart and causes chest pain (angina).

Does alcohol cause pain in the chest? ›

Whether a slight squeeze in your chest or a sharp stabbing sensation, chest tightness or pain can be scary. You may wonder if your drinking habits could cause this frightening side effect — the answer is yes.

How long does a chest pain last? ›

Chest pain can be sharp or dull. You may feel tightness, achiness, or you may feel like your chest is being crushed or squeezed. Chest pain can last for a few minutes or hours. In some cases, it can last six months or longer.

Will my heart heal if I stop drinking? ›

Can the Heart Recover After Prolonged Alcohol Abuse? When a person stops drinking alcohol completely, their heart muscle has the chance to strengthen and will gradually improve over time. However, some heart diseases are chronic, which means a person will never fully recover, even if they quit drinking.

Can chest pain heal itself? ›

Chest pain may arise and subside every few minutes or over several days. The cause may be related to the heart, the muscles, the digestive system, or psychological factors. Underlying causes of chest pain may be mild, as in the case of acid reflux. Or, they may be serious and indicate, for example, a heart attack.

How do I know if my chest pain is serious? ›

How to tell if chest pain is serious. Some types of chest pain should send you to the emergency room — particularly if it lasts for at least five minutes. Symptoms could include new or unexplained chest pain coupled with shortness of breath, a cold sweat, nausea, fatigue or lightheadedness.

What happens if chest pain is left untreated? ›

Chest pain can be a warning sign of a heart attack. A heart attack happens when the blood supply to your heart becomes blocked and damages the heart muscle. The longer a heart attack is left untreated more damage occurs. In some cases, a heart attack can be fatal.

What are the 4 signs of alcoholic cardiomyopathy? ›

These simple tests allow your doctor to identify potential signs of alcoholic cardiomyopathy or heart failure, including:
  • an enlarged heart.
  • sounds of a heart murmur from valve damage.
  • sounds of congestion in the heart and lungs.
  • swelling of the jugular veins in the neck.
  • swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet.

What can I drink instead of alcohol? ›

Next time you're faced with a difficult situation or craving, try one of the following non-alcoholic drink options to avoid cravings and temptation.
  • Tea (hot or cold) ...
  • Fruit and herb-infused water. ...
  • Sparkling water. ...
  • Coffee (hot or iced) ...
  • Club soda with flavored syrup. ...
  • Spiced apple cider. ...
  • Juice. ...
  • Soda water and herbs.
11 Sept 2019

How do you recover from drinking? ›

Ways to relieve a hangover
  1. Eat a good breakfast. Eating a hearty breakfast is one of the most well-known remedies for a hangover. ...
  2. Try certain supplements. Though research is limited, some studies suggest that certain supplements could ease a hangover. ...
  3. Take a pain reliever.

Why does my chest hurt after drinking a little alcohol? ›

Regardless of your health, alcohol consumption is likely to increase blood pressure. Secondly, it can cause an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) and lead to angina (reduced blood flow to the heart). All of which can lead to chest pain, with episodes of these often noticeable during hangovers and withdrawals.

Is chest pain normal during a hangover? ›

Hangover anxiety is a common cause of chest tightness and pain. After a drinking binge, heavy drinkers may also begin to experience atrial fibrillation or heart palpations. This can cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat, weakness, and trouble breathing.

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