Daily Alcohol Use May Drive Chronic Pain in Adults With HIV

Daily alcohol use was found to have a reciprocal relationship with greater daily pain in older adults with HIV, according to a study published in Alcohol.

Researchers conducted this exploratory study to evaluate the common daily drivers of substance use, pain, and relief from pain in adults with HIV ≥50 years of age. A total of 55 participants (average age, 55 years) enrolled in a randomized controlled trial were asked to complete 7 consecutive days of daily ecological momentary assessment online surveys.

Daily rating of worst pain but not presence of any pain in the previous 24 hours, was found to be associated with alcohol use: for every additional unit increase of worse pain beyond a participant’s mean pain value, alcohol use increased by a quarter of a drink. 

The following were determined to be independent predictors of daily worst pain: greater number of daily drinks, less daily happiness but more overall happiness, poorer sleep quality, lack of exercise, and lower confidence to cope with pain without medication or other substances. Spending less time with a loved one and pain coping were associated with relief from pain. Spending time vs no time with a loved one was associated with more consistent and steady relief from pain across the 7 days of ecological momentary assessment.

Study limitations include a small sample size.

“Investigation of daily factors that drive pain and substance use behaviors among this unique population help inform which daily factors are most risky to their health and well-being,” the researchers noted. “Alcohol use emerged as the only substance associated with both driving pain and responding to pain.”

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Kuerbis A, Reid MC, Lake JE, et al. Daily factors driving daily substance use and chronic pain among older adults with HIV: an exploratory study using ecological momentary assessment [published online October 8, 2018]. Alcohol. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2018.10.003