Expectancy of Alcohol Analgesia Moderates Perception of Pain Relief Following Acute Alcohol Intake

Casey Alexander, Nicholas J. Bush, John K. Neubert, Michael Robinson, Jeff Boissoneault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Although laboratory studies indicate alcohol reduces pain intensity and increases pain threshold, these effects likely do not completely explain perceived pain relief from alcohol intake. In this study, we tested expectancy of alcohol analgesia (EAA) as a moderator of subjective pain relief following oral alcohol challenge in individuals with and without chronic orofacial pain. Social drinkers (N = 48; 19 chronic pain; 29 pain-free controls) completed two testing sessions: alcohol administration (BrAC: 0.08 g/dL) and placebo. Alcohol expectancy (AE) was assessed using the EAA questionnaire and two 100-mm Visual Analogue Scales (VASs) regarding strength of belief that alcohol provides pain relief (AE VAS 1) or reduces pain sensitivity (AE VAS 2). Participants completed quantitative sensory testing (QST) involving application of pressure to the masseter insertion. Pain threshold (lbf; three repetitions) and pain intensity (4, 5, and 6 lbf; three repetitions each; 100-mm VAS) were collected. After each stimulus, participants rated perceived pain relief due to consumption of the study beverage (0–100 VAS). Higher EAA and AE VAS 1 ratings were associated with stronger perceived relief in the alcohol, but not placebo, condition. However, expectancy specifically related to reduction in pain sensitivity (AE VAS 2) was not associated with relief. Additionally, changes in pain threshold and intensity were not significantly correlated with perceived relief. Taken together, results suggest expectancy that alcohol provides pain relief is an important determinant of its negative reinforcing effects. Future studies should investigate challenging these expectancies as a means of reducing alcohol-related risk in people with pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-235
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 26 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Psychological Association


  • alcohol
  • analgesia
  • expectancy
  • perceived relief

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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