Feeling no pain: alcohol as an analgesic

Pain. 1988 Feb;32(2):159-163. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(88)90064-4.


Orally administered ethyl alcohol (1 ml/kg of 100% ethyl alcohol + 1 ml/kg tonic water) (the equivalent of two cocktails) produced tolerance to experimentally induced pain comparable to 0.17 mg/kg s.q. morphine (11.6 mg in a 70 kg person) [corrected]. Pain threshold, i.e., the initial awareness of pain, was not modified by either morphine or alcohol. The experiment was run using 18 paid subjects in an experimenter-blinded design. Both a pharmacologically active placebo (atropine) as well as a totally inactive placebo (saline) were employed. Pain induction occurred via mechanical pressure on the Achilles tendon utilizing a device previously standardized in the clinical screening of over 100,000 patients for pain awareness. These results suggest that alcohol, in non-intoxicating quantities, may be an effective adjunct to other analgesic modalities.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesia*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Sensory Thresholds


  • Ethanol