Pain Intensity, Emotion Dysregulation, and Hazardous Drinking Among Adults With Chronic Pain

Julia E. Hooker, Lisa R. Larowe, Jessica M. Powers, Joseph W. Ditre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: Chronic pain and hazardous alcohol use (i.e., a pattern of alcohol consumption that increases risk for harmful consequences) are prevalent and frequently comorbid conditions that have been posited to interact in a bidirectional manner, leading to greater pain and heavier drinking. Despite evidence that emotion dysregulation (i.e., difficulty modulating emotional responses when experiencing negative emotions) is independently associated with both greater pain and greater alcohol consumption, we are not aware of any previous research examining relations between emotion dysregulation, pain intensity, and hazardous alcohol use among individuals with chronic pain. Method: Participants included 125 past-month alcohol users with chronic musculoskeletal pain (38.4% female; mean age = 32.97 years; mean drinks/ day = 1.62) who were recruited for an online survey study of pain and substance use. Results: As expected, emotion dysregulation was positively associated with increased odds of hazardous alcohol use. We also observed a significant indirect association, such that higher levels of emotion dysregulation were associated with greater pain intensity, which in turn was associated with a greater likelihood of scoring above the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test cutoff for hazardous alcohol use. Conclusions: These findings suggest that emotion dysregulation may contribute to hazardous drinking among individuals with chronic pain, perhaps indirectly via pain amplification. Emotion dysregulation warrants consideration as a potential transdiagnostic vulnerability factor in comorbid chronic pain and hazardous drinking. Future prospective research is needed to examine causal pathways and establish temporal precedence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-230
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of studies on alcohol and drugs
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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