Chest Pain After Alcohol – What Does it Mean


While it is not common, some people have been known to experience chest pain after alcohol consumption. This may be in their throat, their central chest, or even more concerningly, in their heart.

There are many potential causes for this, some are slightly benign like heartburn, and others are more serious like a stroke. The more knowledge you have, the better you can protect yourself from chest pain from alcohol in the future.

Can Drinking Alcohol Cause Chest Pain?

Yes, drinking alcohol can cause chest pain. It is important to note that while this can occur, it is not a normal reaction to alcohol. Any experiences of chest pain should lead to seeking immediate medical attention.

Chest pain may be caused by the alcohol, or it may also be exacerbated by it but caused by an underlying medical or psychological condition. Some of these conditions may even be life threatening.

Why Does Alcohol Cause Chest Pain?

There are multiple reasons why someone may experience chest pain when they drink alcohol. A few of the most common causes include:

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant. This means that it has the effect of relaxing muscles, and this includes the esophageal sphincter. This is the muscle that separates the stomach from the oesophagus, therefore its relaxation may cause acid to flow in the wrong direction causing heartburn or acid reflux.

Anxiety and Stress: Alcohol is known to aggravate feelings of anxiety and stress, particularly in those individuals who already suffer from anxiety disorders. The experience of pain in the chest may be a psychosomatic reaction to high levels of anxiety, fear, nervousness, or stress.

Esophageal Spasms: While alcohol typically relaxes muscles, in small doses, in higher doses it can cause certain muscles to spasm. As the muscles of the oesophagus spasm, it may cause pain in the centre of the chest.

Heart Problems: High levels of alcohol consumption, particularly long term excessive consumption, can lead to heart problems such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and even heart attacks.

Allergic Reactions: More rare than the above options, there are some individuals who  may have an allergy to the components of certain alcoholic drinks which can create the sensation of chest pain with consumption.

Interactions with Medications: If someone is taking medication and they drink at the same time, this may create a pharmacological interaction in their body as the two ‘drugs’ interact. This may cause chest pain, discomfort, or even have more serious implications for their health.

While GERD and esophageal spasm may be uncomfortable, they are clearly not life threatening. Complications involving the heart however can be life threatening. This is why it is so crucial to seek medical attention as soon as one experiences chest pain after drinking alcohol.

How Does Drinking Alcohol Affect the Heart?

The effects that alcohol can have on your heart, and on your overall health and wellbeing are directly correlated to how much and how often you are drinking. The guidelines for the maximum recommended amount of alcohol intake varies depending on sex, age, health status, and other factors.

Here is a rough guideline for what most people who do not experience co-occurring disorders, and who are not taking any other medications or drugs may want to follow:

Some studies claim that there are many positive benefits to drinking alcohol regularly. However, the reality is that these studies are often contested in research circles..

The more frequently someone drinks, and the more heavily they drink, the more likely they are to experience the negative side effects on their heart from drinking. Some of the more serious side effects include:

  • High Blood Pressure: This puts needless pressure on the heart and acts as a major factor for heart disease
  • Arrhythmias: Alcohol’s sedative effects on the brain can disrupt the normal electrical signals that maintain a regular heartbeat. This can cause irregular heartbeats such as atrial fibrillation, which increases the risk of stroke and other complications
  • Cardiomyopathy: Overtime the pressure on the heart caused by excessive consumption weakens the heart. It becomes less effective at pumping blood, and can eventually give out.
  • Stroke: Heavy drinking increases the risk of strokes caused by bleeding in the brain or through blood clots
  • Atherosclerosis: Drinking also promotes the buildup of plaque in the arteries. This reduces blood flow throughout the body and increases the risk of heart attacks as well as other problematic heart related events
  • Interactions with Medications: As previously mentioned, alcohol can negatively interact with other medications being taken, and this is particularly true for medications used to manage heart conditions. Alcohol may reduce their effectiveness or cause other adverse effects.

If You’re Addicted to Alcohol – Clinic Les Alpes Can Help

If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be experiencing an addiction to alcohol, you do not have to go through this struggle alone. Attending an in-patient clinic to detox and start your recovery journey is a great first step to getting your life back on track.

Clinic Les Alpes is one such clinic that can offer state of the art therapies with 24/7 medicalised care in luxury settings. Within the beautiful nature of Switzerland, you can start your journey to health in absolute privacy, safety, and comfort.

We pride ourselves on offering world-class medical and therapeutic care to those wanting to overcome their addictions. If you choose to take this opportunity, you can expect:

Full Assessment Profile: Our medical and therapeutic teams will complete a full assessment of your physical and psychological health, ensuring that we can form an individualised integrative treatment plan that addresses all of your needs

Withdrawal and Detox Management: With 24/7 medicalised supervision, you can rest easy knowing that a dedicated team of doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and psychologists will work in collaboration with you to alleviate your withdrawal symptoms and support you emotionally

Comprehensive Therapeutic Intervention: You will have access to daily private therapy sessions with world-class professionals, as well as the opportunity to engage in group therapies that build a sense of recovery and community in your treatment

Holistic Complementary Therapies: Our medicalised spa offers a complete experience of complementary treatments and therapies, as well as beauty, fitness, and self-care services to keep you feeling taken care of

Collaborative Dietetic and Nutrition Plan: You will receive a personalised nutrition plan in full consultation with our in-house dietician  which will be carried out by our kitchen team led by superb chefs dedicated to providing nutritious and health-promoting meals

Aftercare Planning: Leading up to your discharge you will receive a unique aftercare and relapse prevention plan that sets you up to receive ongoing professional support and gives you all the tools you need to protect yourself from relapse in the future

If the above offers sound like exactly what you, or your loved one, could benefit from, please do not hesitate to reach out to Clinic Les Alpes for help today.

Chest Pain After Alcohol – Final Thoughts

The experience of chest or heart pain during or after drinking alcohol can range from being mildly uncomfortable, to deeply painful. And as outlined above, the reasons for this pain can also range from being a slight inconvenience to being life threatening.

If you, or someone you care about, are regularly experiencing chest pain after alcohol consumption, it is strongly recommended that you reach out to a medical professional for care and advice.

Clinically Reviewed By

Brittany Hunt

Brittany Hunt is an internationally experienced clinician, specialised in treating addictions and co-occurring disorders. Having worked in the public and private sector, she utilises holistic and evidence-based approaches designed to empower the patients in their recovery journeys. A graduate of The University of Auckland, she has a Bachelor of Health Sciences majoring in Mental Health and Addictions, a diploma in Psychology and Counselling and a Post-Graduate degree in Health Sciences, majoring in Addictions. She is a fully registered practitioner under the Drug and Alcohol Association of Aotearoa New Zealand (DAPAANZ).

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