Alcohol & Pain – 21/07/14 09:38

I tried to write this post yesterday, but got quite distracted soon after starting. That wasn’t too much of an issue as I realised that perhaps this post needs to be written on my laptop due to the subject I’m writing about, and how it may need some research so that people understand exactly what I’m saying.

I only say this because together, alcohol and pain, it’s a subject which is quite hard to describe, because everybody reacts differently to both.

The thing is, it’s a shame really. I enjoy a drink just as much as the next guy. I really do! I’ve got a small bottle of Scotch Whiskey which I plan to have on the rocks, and I’ve still got near enough a full crate of Kronenbourg 1664 which was from Christmas. The only trouble is, I can’t drink very often. I’m not saying I’d like to have a drink everyday, because that would cause more issues than I have now, but having a drink once in a while is nice.

Yet at 20 years old, I’m not allowed to. I’ve been told by my doctors, consultants, and even others who are on the same meds as I am, that there is no way in hell I can have a drink, and it’s upsetting you know? That’s not the way things should be, I should be able to have a drink whenever the hell I like. A few years ago, when I had a drink, I most certainly had a drink. I’ve got many happy memories and fuzzy nights out of just being absolutely plastered, it was great.

If I’d like to do that now.. I have to not take any of my meds all day. Perhaps if I’m pushing it, I’ll take the first set of tablets in the morning, but I can’t take them throughout the day. This is because of the type of medication that I take.

One especially; Tramadol.

Tramadol is an opiate, meaning that the basic substance is ‘farmed’ from the dried milk of the poppy seed. It also means that it is in¬†the same group as Heroin and Morphine, slightly less powerful, yet just as addictive. It’s also the main reason why alcohol doesn’t agree with me, and why I can’t actually have a drink any more.

You see, Tramadol is a painkiller, and try as it may, it does hold off my pain and I can’t dispute that at all, without it I am in agony. Yet the first thing mentioned on the leaflet for this drug, is that the user must not consume alcohol alongside taking the medication. This is for a number of reasons.

Firstly, alcohol can basically¬†diminish the effects of Tramadol within the body. Completely. This is the one that effects me the most, even after just one drink. I can actually feel it happening. About halfway through a pint, or perhaps even after one single Vodka and Coke, my pain just appears, rather quickly, but gradually at the same time. The more I drink, the more the pain appears, and before I know it, I’m drunk and in agony on the floor. This may not be the same for everybody, but still.

This brings me onto the second point.

Drinking alcohol whilst on Tramadol gets you drunk quicker, but not in a nice way. Not in a nice way at all. Back in the day, I could drink a lot. At one point a litre of Vodka would be my best friend on the night, and surprisingly enough, I’d wake up with only a very slight headache and a craving for a cup of tea. Not exactly what I’d call a hangover anyway. Now though, I wouldn’t even think about it. 4 pints and more, will cause my pain to creep up towards the 7 / 8 on the pain rating scale. That’s not even taking into account that at the time I’ve started my 5th pint, I probably haven’t even had any painkillers for over 12 hours.

That right there, is an issue. I don’t just take my painkillers because I’m in pain.. Yes that is the main reason, but I’ve been taking opiates for about 3, perhaps 4 years now, and I’m addicted to them. I don’t go mental when I’ve not had one for over 6 hours, don’t get me wrong, but in this example, I would not only have been starting my 5th pint and probably well and truly drunk, I’d be in excruciating pain, my cognitive functions would have slowed to the speed of a snail, and on top of that, I haven’t had any painkillers for over 12 hours, which not only makes me feel like shit, but by now.. My pain is through the roof. Pain Rating of 0 – 10? 11. No doubt about it.

That’s the sad truth really.

Plus as well, this is all ‘external factors’. These are things which I can feel happening, yet actually inside of me, there’s another detrimental effect that the cocktail of alcohol and tramadol is having on my body. My liver is going into overdrive.

Your liver, as everyone knows, is the power horse of your body. It’s roughly 8 and a half inches long, and filters most of the substances that pass through your body, and tries to convert them into non-lethal substances. (I know the kidneys also do this too, but alcohol and opiates don’t really have a strong negative effect on them, as much as they do on the liver.)

The only trouble is, your liver can’t filter alcohol very well. Or at least, not as fast as it is usually consumed. When alcohol enters the body, it makes it way down towards the liver and is converted into acetaldehyde by means of enzymes and a process called oxidization, then broken down even further to acetic acid, then CO2 and water. This is fine, the liver can handle this process, and as long as the acetaldehyde is kept inside the liver, you’re okay. Yet after drink number 4, and shot number 6, your liver can’t seem to keep up with the amount of alcohol that you’re putting into your body, and the acetaldehyde can’t be further broken down quick enough, and starts to seep into your bloodstream. This is where it starts to kill of cells in the liver, and whilst it is doing this, the liver becomes even more powerless to convert the vast amounts of alcohol consumed. This happens over time, and with a lot of alcohol, so don’t be worried it’ll happen straight away on a bender. It really wont.

However, the liver is still under a lot of stress when you drink alcohol full stop. Here comes the issue though..

Likewise with alcohol, opiates cause a lot of stress on the liver. If taken for long periods of time, the liver can not effectively break down the chemical compounds, and instead they become toxic within the liver and start to cause damage. The same thing happens on a much quicker scale when somebody overdoses on opiates. If you overdose on opiates, within the space of hours, you can completely fry your liver. Scary thought, right?

So I’ve been told to take tramadol because of my pain, and I’ve been taking it for a long time now. So I can understand that my body has quite a high build up of the stuff, and actually a high tolerance too. My liver is constantly working away to convert the medicine down from it’s active substance, to other compounds so that I can basically get rid of it out of my body later on. This means it is under a lot of stress, constantly. When you bring alcohol into the equation.. This just makes everything 110% worse. Hence why people on opiates get drunk quicker. Hence, why we can have even more liver problems, and hence why we are told specifically NOT to drink alcohol.

The fact is.. It’s a worrying thing to think about when I realise that I can’t actually get drunk, because I know I’ll not only be in pain.. But it could actually permanently damage my liver.

Luckily for me.. I don’t drink very often, and now, people have a bit more understanding of exactly why. Yet, even after all of this, I can safely say that I’ll still be able to drink a fair few others under the table. Some people just can’t handle their drink because they’re lightweights. Others just can’t because their body wont let it.

That’s it for today though, I just thought this would be an interesting post to make, and hopefully give people an insight to exactly what happens when I consume alcohol, and why sometimes, I actually have to say ‘no’ because of the effect it’ll have, not because I don’t want to.

Pain Rating Today: 6Pain Rating