When you have a headache or muscle ache, you probably reach for the Tylenol to alleviate your pain, right? Well, you might be better off reaching for a couple of pints of beer if you truly want to feel better. Here’s why.
Paracetamol isn’t all that effective in the best of cases. Paracetamol is the active drug in Tylenol. It works by apparently reducing prostaglandins, lipid compounds that are known to cause inflammation, in the brain. However, despite the fact that the drug is widely used for pain relief, studies have shown that it’s pretty ineffective, especially when it comes to dealing with chronic pain.
Studies say beer does a better job. In a series of 18 studies performed by the University of Greenwich in the UK, it was discovered that drinking two pints of beer can lower your pain level by roughly 25%. Two pints is about enough to put your blood alcohol content at 0.08%, which gives you “a small elevation of pain threshold” and therefore “A moderate to large reduction in pain intensity ratings.” Sweet!
How does it work? If alcohol reduces pain, it’s definitely worth trying to figure out how it achieves that effect. Is it that it acts as a buffer against pain by reducing our anxiety about it? Everyone knows that when you have pain, you worry about what’s causing it/if it will get worse, which can sometimes lead to that very effect. Or, does alcohol actually alter brain receptors which translate pain? It’s super interesting!
Researchers believe it may explain why many people with chronic pain end up with alcohol issues. As the study explains, “Findings suggest that alcohol is an effective analgesic that delivers clinically-relevant reductions in ratings of pain intensity, which could explain alcohol misuse in those with persistent pain, despite its potential consequences for long-term health.”
If you need painkillers, beer seems to be a good bet. While doctors wouldn’t necessarily suggest that you get hammered to lower any pain you might experience, having a beer or two would indeed have an equal or even better effect than prescription drugs. As study author Dr. Trevor Thompson explained to The Sun, “We have found strong evidence that alcohol is an effective painkiller. It can be compared to opioid drugs such as codeine and the effect is more powerful than paracetamol. If we can make a drug without the harmful side- effects then we could have something that is potentially better than what is out there at the moment.”
More research needs to be done, but this should give us hope. Overindulging in alcohol certainly isn’t without negative effects, but the same can be said in using painkillers, even if they’re available over-the-counter. Research suggesting that even light to moderate occasional alcohol could help with pain will hopefully lead to further studies about dealing with pain more safely, quickly, and effectively.
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