Association of Chronic Pain With Alcohol Consumption and Tobacco Use in Active Duty Soldiers

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Military medicine

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INTRODUCTION: Chronic pain and lifestyle habits, namely alcohol consumption and tobacco use, impact soldier readiness. This study examines the relationship between chronic pain and these lifestyle habits in soldiers seen at the Interdisciplinary Pain Management Center (IPMC). MATERIALS AND METHODS: This cross-sectional retrospective review utilized data from active duty soldiers receiving treatment at the IPMC. Soldiers (N = 203, 85% men) treated at the IPMC completed an intake questionnaire that included the Defense and Veterans Pain Rating Scale, the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Concise, and inquiries about tobacco use. Tobacco use was quantified as the amount and frequency of cigarettes smoked. Other tobacco products were converted to an equivalent number of cigarettes. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, Pearson's correlation, and independent samples t-test analyses. RESULTS: The mean duration of pain reported was 34.73 ± 38.66 months (median = 24.00). Soldiers engaging in hazardous drinking reported significantly higher interference with sleep (mean = 6.53 versus 5.40, P = .03) and greater negative effect on mood (mean = 6.33 versus 5.30, P = .04) compared to the no hazardous drinking group. Nonsignificant differences were found between tobacco users and non-tobacco users regarding pain intensity and pain effect on activity, sleep, mood, and stress (all P > .05). Among tobacco users, a significant negative correlation was found between a daily number of cigarettes used and sleep interference (r = -0.29, P = .024) as well as effect on mood (r = -0.33, P = .010). Years of tobacco use showed a significant negative correlation with the average pain intensity (r = -0.32, P = .025). CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that addressing alcohol consumption is an essential part of chronic pain treatment. The finding of a negative association between years of nicotine use and pain intensity suggests that nicotine use may have served as a coping mechanism. Further research is needed.



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