Chest Pain After Drinking

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Does your chest hurt after drinking alcohol?

Even a single episode of binge drinking can trigger chest pain. If you exceed moderate drinking guidelines, sustained heavy drinking can cause an irregular heart rate and high blood pressure, in turn triggering chest tightness after drinking.

Chronic alcohol abuse can increase anxiety, potentially leading to panic attacks or chest pain. Long-term alcohol abuse can provoke cardiovascular damage, increasing the chance of stroke and heart failure.

This guide outlines the most common causes of chest pain associated with alcohol consumption, and shows you how to prevent this potentially life-threatening complication.

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Chest Pain After Drinking Alcohol

Chest pains and shortness of breath after drinking can occur for many reasons. 

NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) classifies heavy drinking as follows: 

  • Men drinking 14 or more alcoholic drinks per week or more than 4 alcoholic drinks per day.
  • Women drinking 7 or more alcoholic drinks per week or more than 3 alcoholic drinks per day.

Heavy drinking can adversely affect cardiovascular health, possibly leading to the following heart-related problems: 

  • High blood pressure levels
  • Stroke
  • Cardiomyopathy (condition that affects heart muscle)
  • Heart failure

Consuming alcohol may also trigger angina. Angina is chest pain triggered by reduced blood flow to the heart. As a result of a reduction in blood flow, the heart is not supplied with enough oxygen, sometimes causing pain and discomfort in the chest. Angina typically indicates blocked arteries or underlying heart disease. 

Heavy drinking causes BAC (blood alcohol concentration) to rise significantly, increasing blood pressure levels as a result. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that high blood pressure can cause chest pain. Studies show that high blood pressure is a risk factor for arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm). Arrhythmias sometimes cause pain in the chest, as well as other symptoms like: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

Alcohol is a CNS depressant. As such, the substance suppresses the central nervous system. In small amounts, alcohol may induce feelings of relaxation and lower inhibitions. Over time, though, heavy drinking can change the way in which the brain responds to alcohol. Once alcohol is eliminated from the body, the CNS may enter fight or flight mode, a response similar to that of anxiety disorders. 

Additionally, intense anxiety can lead to a panic attack. The symptoms of a panic attack may feel similar to those of a heart attack. Symptoms include: 

  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

A recent review of studies suggests that alcohol can be a risk factor for GERD (also known as acid reflux). The risk increases in line with the scope and frequency of alcohol abuse. Symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) include:

  • Heartburn
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Over time, alcohol abuse often leads to the development of pancreatitis. This condition can trigger severe abdominal pain that radiates to the chest.

What Causes This?

Of the many factors that can cause alcohol-related chest pain, the most common fall in the following categories: 

  • Heart
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Use of other substances

Heart

Research indicates that frequently consuming more than one or two alcoholic drinks daily correlates to a heightened risk of high blood pressure. CDC states that high blood pressure can: 

  • Damage arteries
  • Reduce flow of blood and oxygen to heart
  • Increase risk of heart disease, heart attack, and heart failure

Researchers believe that heavy drinking may cause heart damage before the presentation of the symptoms of heart disease. Those who exceed moderate drinking guidelines may experience: 

  • Stretching of heart wall
  • Increased inflammation
  • Heightened risk of heart injury
  • Irregular heart rate

Chronic alcohol abuse can degrade the heart muscle, potentially leading to cardiomyopathy. The symptoms of alcohol-related cardiomyopathy may present similarly to those of congestive heart failure. 

Anxiety and stress

Anxiety and stress associated with alcohol abuse may also lead to chest pain. 

Excessive drinking is known to increase anxiety levels. This sometimes manifests in the form of hangxiety, a rebound phenomenon that occurs the morning after en episode of heavy drinking. 

Anxiety induced by alcohol may persist for a few hours after the last alcoholic drink. This type of anxiety can also provoke panic attacks that include physical symptoms like chest pain. 

Use of other substances

Drinking alcohol in combination with prescription medications or illicit drugs may cause adverse effects that include chest tightness and chest pain. Mixing alcohol with cocaine is especially damaging. This form of polysubstance abuse can strain the heart and compromise the cardiovascular system.

What to Do When Your Chest Hurts After Drinking

You should not ignore chest pain induced by drinking alcohol due to the potentially severe health complications of stroke or heart attack. The following are potential indicators of a heart attack after drinking: 

  • Chest pain and tightness
  • Pain in the back, arm, jaw, or upper neck
  • Breathing problems
  • Extreme weakness and fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of consciousness

If you experience chest pain after drinking, consult your healthcare provider. Call 911 immediately in the event of a medical emergency. 

The following steps may help to prevent the development of alcohol-related chest pain: 

  • Avoid or stop smoking
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Adhere to moderate drinking guidelines
  • Designate several weekdays as alcohol-free
  • Avoid drinking alcohol
  • Exercise for 30 minutes daily
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Manage stress
  • Treat underlying conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes

If you have tried and failed to cut down or quit drinking, we can help you achieve this here at California Detox in Laguna Beach.

Learn to Quit Drinking at California Detox

If you need help recalibrating your life after becoming addicted to drink or drugs, we can help you at California Detox. 

Whether you have a problem with alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs, we offer treatment programs at all levels of intensity on ASAM’s continuum of care, including: 

  • Inpatient programs (residential rehab)
  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment programs (for co-occurring disorders)

Before engaging with evidence-based addiction treatment in Southern California, you may find our supervised medical detox program beneficial. Medications approved by the FDA can streamline withdrawal symptoms and cravings, helping you to address the physical issue of drug or alcohol dependence. 

At our affordable luxury rehab center in Laguna Beach, you can access these interventions: 

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy

When you are ready to move from active addiction into ongoing sobriety, we can help you from detox to discharge and beyond. Reach out to admissions today by calling 949.390.5377.

FAQs

Chest pain after drinking alcohol can be a symptom of various conditions, some potentially serious. Possible causes of chest pain after drinking include heartburn, acid reflux, and muscle strain. Less commonly, chest pain triggered by consuming alcohol can be a sign of a heart attack. It is not normal to experience chest pain after drinking, so consult your physician if this occurs.
Here are some ways of alleviating chest pain induced by drinking alcohol: Take OTC pain medications like naproxen or ibuprofen; Drink a few glasses of water; Practice deep breathing exercises; Eat few processed foods and lots of whole foods, fruits, and vegetables; Focus on quality and quantity of sleep; Avoid alcohol; and Consult a physician

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