Fibromyalgia Helped By Drinking Alcohol, New Study

Elaine Radford

Patients with fibromyalgia who drink moderate amounts of alcohol have less pain and better quality of life than patients who don't drink. That's the results of a study of 946 patients that was published today in open access journal, Arthritis Research and Therapy.

Moderate drinking was defined in the study to mean more than three but not more than seven drinks a week, about what you'd consume if you had a glass of wine with dinner most nights.

400 people in the study group were drinkers, and 546 abstained. According to the researchers, the drinkers were more likely to be employed and more likely to have achieved a higher level of education. They also had to use opioids to control their pain less frequently than the nondrinkers.

So should you drink up and assume that you'll feel no pain?

Actually, the advice isn't that clearcut. Some sufferers with fibromyalgia have reported that they can no longer tolerate alcohol -- which may be one reason why some of the people in the study were nondrinkers in the first place.

It should also be noted that patients in the greatest pain, who need to use prescription narcotics more often, probably don't drink because of the risks of mixing alcohol and opioids. Accidental deaths from combining the two substances leads to one death every 19 minutes or 20,000 deaths every year in the United States, according to CCN medical expert Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Fibromyalgia is notoriously difficult to treat. As Jennifer Deutschmann previously reported, only 22% of patients respond to current drugs. That forces patients and doctors to seek alternative therapies like talk therapy.

It isn't necessarily obvious whether the patients in the new survey can drink moderately because their disease is less severe -- or whether their fibromyalgia is less severe because they drink. What do you think?

[photo courtesy Tim Bartel and Wikipedia Commons]