March 11, 2024

Chest Pain After Drinking Alcohol

an image of someone dealing with alcohol chest pain

Consuming alcohol might lead to elevated blood pressure and irregular heartbeats, known as arrhythmias, both of which can trigger chest pain. Additionally, chest pains after alcohol consumption could stem from anxiety, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), or other health issues. Alcohol’s role in heightening anxiety can also precipitate panic attacks, further contributing to feelings of chest pain. Over prolonged periods, excessive alcohol use can harm the heart, heightening the likelihood of developing heart failure and increasing the risk of stroke.

This guide explores the relationship between alcohol consumption and chest pain, outlining how alcohol impacts heart health and offering advice on how to mitigate alcohol-related chest pain. 

Can Alcohol Cause Chest Pain?

Chest pain after drinking alcohol can stem from many different factors. Excessive drinking has been linked to heart-related issues, such as:

●  Elevated blood pressure

●  Heart failure

●  Cardiomyopathy

●  Stroke

Alcohol may also provoke angina, characterized by chest pain due to diminished blood flow and oxygen to the heart, often indicating underlying cardiovascular disease and clogged arteries.

For women, consuming four or more drinks in a single occasion, and for men, five or more drinks, qualifies as heavy drinking. Such levels of alcohol intake can lead to a spike in blood pressure.

Increased blood pressure can make arteries less flexible, stunting blood and oxygen flow to the heart and causing chest pain while drinking alcohol.

Beyond this, high blood pressure heightens the risk of arrhythmia or abnormal heart rhythms, including atrial fibrillation, which can manifest as chest pain or pressure. Other symptoms of arrhythmias may include:

●  Heart palpitations

●  Dizziness or feeling faint

●  Difficulty breathing

●  Sweating

●  Tiredness

Alcohol, a CNS depressant, initially induces relaxation and reduced inhibitions. However, its long-term heavy use may alter brain chemistry, leading to heightened anxiety levels once the effects of alcohol wane, potentially triggering a fight-or-flight response similar to that experienced in anxiety disorders.

Such intense anxiety might culminate in a panic attack, with symptoms that mimic those of a heart attack, including:

●  Chest discomfort

●  Breathing difficulties

●  Rapid heart rate

●  Nausea

●  Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

Alcohol significantly contributes to the risk of developing GERD, informally known as acid reflux, with the risk escalating alongside alcohol consumption frequency and quantity.

GERD can cause:

●  Chest pain

●  Heartburn

●  Regurgitation of food

●  Nausea

Chronic and excessive alcohol use is the leading cause of pancreatitis, which can produce severe abdominal pain extending to the chest, among other symptoms like:

●  Increased heart rate

●  Nausea and vomiting

●  Fever

●  Abdominal swelling

●  Jaundice 

How to Stop Chest Pain After Drinking Alcohol

To mitigate the risk of chest pain related to alcohol consumption and to safeguard heart health, consider the following strategies:

●  Limit or cease alcohol consumption.

●  Adhere to the recommended alcohol consumption limits, which suggest no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.

●  Incorporate several days without alcohol into your weekly routine.

●  Stop smoking or avoid starting.

●  Aim for a healthy body weight.

●  Engage in regular physical activity.

●  Follow a nutritious, well-balanced eating plan.

●  Manage stress through relaxation and adequate rest.

●  Address and manage any pre-existing health conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes.

For individuals seeking assistance with reducing or stopping their alcohol consumption due to its impact on their health or quality of life, consulting a healthcare provider or reaching out to a specialized organization can offer the necessary support and guidance. 

What Causes Chest Pain from Alcohol?

Many factors can cause chest pain following alcohol consumption, with some of the most prevalent reasons being:

●  Acid reflux: Alcohol consumption can lead to the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter, permitting stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus. This results in a burning sensation and chest pain that extends from the stomach to the chest and shoulders, especially common in those who consume alcohol daily due to addiction.

●  High blood pressure: Chronic heavy drinking can significantly elevate blood pressure, potentially causing chest tightness or pain shortly after drinking or even several hours later.

●  Arrhythmia: Alcohol can cause your heart to beat faster or irregularly, placing additional strain on the heart muscles and leading to chest pain. Other arrhythmia symptoms include dizziness, lightheadedness, and a rapid pulse.

●  Stress and anxiety: Often, people drink excessively to mitigate feelings of stress and anxiety, leading to a cycle of dependence. This, in turn, can aggravate the symptoms of stress and anxiety, including chest pain, especially after episodes of hangovers or blackouts.

●  Panic attacks: The initial chest discomfort might escalate into a panic attack, during which a person might fear they are experiencing a heart attack. Panic attack symptoms include chest pain, a swift heart rate, and breathing difficulties.

●  Organ stress: Heavy alcohol use also impacts the body’s organs, straining and weakening the liver and kidneys over time due to alcohol’s toxic effects. This stress may result in chest pain immediately after drinking or the following day. 

Can Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Chest Pain?

Alcohol withdrawal may cause chest pain among other symptoms. When a person who has been drinking heavily for an extended period suddenly reduces or discontinues alcohol consumption, they may experience withdrawal symptoms as their body attempts to adjust to the absence of alcohol. Chest pain during alcohol withdrawal can occur due to increased heart rate and blood pressure, stress or anxiety, panic attacks, or muscle tension.

Alcohol withdrawal can be a serious medical condition requiring professional supervision. In severe cases, withdrawal can lead to life-threatening symptoms like seizures and DTs (delirium tremens). This means that anyone experiencing withdrawal symptoms, especially chest pain, should seek medical attention to safely manage the withdrawal process and mitigate the risks associated with alcohol detoxification. 

Treatment for Alcohol Chest Pain

Treating chest pain related to alcohol consumption or withdrawal involves addressing both the immediate discomfort and the underlying causes. Here are key strategies for managing and treating alcohol-related chest pain:

Immediate relief for chest pain

●  Consult a healthcare professional: Always seek medical advice if you experience chest pain, especially if it’s new, unexpected, or severe, to rule out life-threatening conditions.

●  Rest and relaxation: Sometimes, resting in a quiet, comfortable environment can help alleviate chest pain, especially if it’s related to anxiety or panic attacks.

●  Breathing techniques: Deep breathing exercises can help manage panic and anxiety symptoms, potentially easing chest discomfort.

Long-term strategies

●  Alcohol reduction or cessation: Gradually reducing or completely stopping alcohol consumption is paramount for those experiencing chest pain due to alcohol use or withdrawal. Professional help from a doctor or addiction specialist can provide guidance and support.

●  Medication: Doctors may prescribe medications to help manage withdrawal symptoms, including medications to stabilize blood pressure, treat anxiety, and prevent alcohol cravings.

●  Therapy and counseling: Engaging with talk therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can help address underlying issues related to alcohol use, such as stress, anxiety, and dependence.

●  Lifestyle changes: Adopting a healthier lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress management techniques, can improve overall heart health and reduce the risk of alcohol-related chest pain.

●  Monitoring and managing health conditions: Regular check-ups to monitor and treat any alcohol-related health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or GERD are important for preventing chest pain.

Support systems

●  Support groups: Joining support groups, such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or other recovery communities, can provide emotional support and practical advice for dealing with alcohol-related chest pain and the journey towards recovery.

●  Family and friends: Engaging the support of family and friends can offer additional emotional support and encouragement to make positive lifestyle changes.

Anyone experiencing alcohol-related chest pain to recognize the importance of seeking professional help and adopting comprehensive treatment strategies. Successfully managing alcohol consumption and its health impacts is a critical step towards reducing chest pain and improving overall well-being. 

an image of Gratitude Lodge, where you can visit if you are dealing with chest pain from alcohol abuse

Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening without medical supervision, especially for those with severe alcohol use disorders. Choose supervised detoxification at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California and mitigate the risks and discomfort of detox while addressing the issue of alcohol dependence.

Detoxing from alcohol usually takes a week or so. Following detox, you can transition to ongoing inpatient treatment at one of our luxury facilities located in Long Beach or Newport Beach, CA.

Alcohol addiction treatment programs at Gratitude Lodge involve targeted treatments that may include:

●  MAT (medication-assisted treatment)

●  Talk therapies

●  Motivational therapies

●  Group therapy

●  One-to-one counseling

●  Family therapy

●  Holistic treatments

●  Aftercare planning

Call 800-994-2184 today and begin your recovery from alcohol abuse right away.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.

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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.

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Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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