People may sometimes experience chest pain after drinking alcohol. Chest pain can be a concerning symptom, as it can indicate that someone is having a heart attack or another serious problem. However, chest pain can also be caused by a variety of alcohol-related effects, such as dehydration or increased stress. If you’re concerned about alcohol’s impact on your heart, it’s helpful to understand the different ways that drinking can affect your cardiovascular system and overall health

Why Does My Chest Hurt After Drinking?

There are several different reasons why someone’s chest may hurt after drinking, but it can be difficult for someone to know the exact cause. Chest pain should not be dismissed, and anyone experiencing serious chest pain should seek immediate medical care to ensure it is not something life-threatening.

Possible causes of chest pain after drinking include:

  • Heart attack: Alcohol raises blood pressure and can increase the risk of a heart attack occurring.
  • Angina: Angina can be a precursor to a heart attack, but it does not actually cause permanent damage to the heart. However, it still requires medical treatment to prevent a heart attack from developing.
  • Stress: Drinking alcohol can increase stress levels, leading to tightness in the chest that can mimic a heart attack.
  • Dehydration: Alcohol causes dehydration that can cause discomfort in the chest muscles.
  • Injury: Drinking makes you more prone to injuries and can make you forget that you were injured. Chest pain may be caused by an injury that you do not remember.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Heart?

With chest pain, the heart is often the primary concern. Contrary to popular belief, existing evidence shows that alcohol does not improve heart health. The grapes in wine may offer some benefit to heart health, but alcohol itself does not. 

However, alcohol does lead to a variety of heart problems. In the short term, alcohol increases blood pressure and heart rate, which puts more stress on the heart. Over a long-term period, alcohol can also weaken the heart muscle and cause an irregular heartbeat. Drinking lightly or even moderately is less likely to have a negative effect on heart health, but drinking heavily can lead to serious heart problems.

Alcohol Raises Blood Pressure

Alcohol has been shown to increase blood pressure, especially when used heavily. This increases stress on the heart during an episode of drinking, and it can damage the arteries of the heart when high blood pressure is maintained long-term. This increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other diseases.

Alcohol-Induced Anxiety

Alcohol can lead to anxiety that causes stress and stress-related chest pain. While alcohol is known for helping people relax, it can ultimately increase anxiety by keeping people from developing healthy ways of coping with their anxiety. Drinking to “drown” your anxiety can also make the anxiety return with more intensity after alcohol’s effects wear off.

Acid Reflux From Alcohol

Alcohol is known for inducing reflux. When this occurs, the contents of the stomach travel up into the esophagus, creating a burning sensation commonly referred to as heartburn. Reflux can be more severe with heavy drinking, and vomiting can occur. Alcohol also leads to dehydration. This causes the stomach contents to be less diluted and more acidic, making acid reflux even worse.

Alcohol Withdrawal Chest Pain

Alcohol withdrawal can cause chest pain due to heart-related effects and increased stress. Alcohol withdrawal can lead to an abnormal heart rhythm and other effects that impact the heart. The stress of withdrawal can also cause chest tightness and pressure that may feel like heart problems.

Can Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Heart Palpitations?

Alcohol withdrawal can lead to heart palpitations; however, alcohol use can lead to more serious palpitations than alcohol withdrawal. Heavy alcohol use can cause a condition called “holiday heart syndrome,” in which palpitations occur after heavy drinking. In some cases, this condition can lead to lasting heart damage and death. While there is a risk of palpitations during withdrawal, this risk is generally lower than the risk of palpitations when actively drinking.

Can Alcohol Withdrawal Cause a Heart Attack?

Alcohol withdrawal can potentially lead to a heart attack — especially if it is not medically managed — but this is relatively unlikely. Still, alcohol withdrawal can be stressful on every part of the body. This additional stress can be too much for someone who is at risk of having a heart attack, causing them to have one. As a general rule, however, a heart attack is not a significant risk during alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol Detox Center Near Orlando, FL

The dangers of alcohol withdrawal go beyond just heart-related effects. Withdrawal from alcohol can lead to several other serious and potentially deadly symptoms, including seizures and a condition called delirium tremens

Alcohol withdrawal is one of the most dangerous types of substance withdrawal, and people who wish to stop drinking should typically seek out a medical detox program instead of quitting on their own. In these programs, patients detox while under medical supervision to remain as safe as possible during withdrawal.

At Orlando Recovery Center, we understand how to keep you safe and healthy throughout the detox process. We also provide inpatient and outpatient treatment programs to help you maintain long-term sobriety once you have completed our medical detox program. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol abuse and addiction, our experts are here to help. Contact us today to learn about treatment programs that can help you find lasting freedom from alcohol addiction.

Jonathan-Strum
Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
Benjamin-Caleb-Williams
Medically Reviewed By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more
Sources

American Heart Association News. “Drinking red wine for heart health? Read[…]his before you toast.” May 24, 2019. Accessed July 29, 2022.

AlcoholThinkAgain. “Alcohol and Cardiovascular Disease.” December 17, 2020. Accessed July 29, 2022.

American Heart Association. “Limiting Alcohol to Manage High Blood Pressure.” October 31, 2016. Accessed July 29, 2022.

Anxiety & Depression Association of America. “Social Anxiety Disorder and Alcohol Abuse.” Accessed July 29, 2022.

GI Associates. “Can Drinking Alcohol Cause Acid Reflux?” April 8, 2022. Accessed July 29, 2022.

Trevisan, Louis A.; Boutros, Nashaat; et al. “Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal.” Alcohol Health & Research World, 1998. Accessed July 29, 2022.

Brown, Kristen N.; Yelamanchili, Varun S.; Goel, Akshay. “Holiday Heart Syndrome.” StatPearls, February 16, 2022. Accessed July 29, 2022.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.