People consume alcohol worldwide regardless of its harmful effects. Some may use it in moderate amounts and don’t suffer from severe side effects. But, for others, alcohol can become a life-threatening habit. Alcohol can cause liver cirrhosis, weakened immune system, heart diseases, and not to forget alcohol pancreatitis.

If you are suffering from alcohol pancreatitis or any other side effects of alcohol, please feel free to call us at 0203 955 7700 and start your consultation as soon as possible with help4addiction. Ignoring it now can take a toll on your life.

What Is Alcohol Pancreatitis?

The pancreas is a gland/organ present inside the abdomen behind the stomach. It converts the food into fuel that our body cells use to function. It plays an essential role by performing two functions. One of the functions is to produce and release enzymes in the small intestine. These are the digestive enzymes that help in the process of digestion. And the second function of the pancreas is to release insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream. These two hormones help the body in the proper use of energy.

Certain habits such as hazardous drinking can increase the risk of physical, mental, and social consequences. One of the effects that prolonged dangerous alcohol can cause is irreversible and progressive damage to the pancreas gland. Hence, called alcohol pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. This inflammation can lead to injury and dysfunction of the organ. There are two forms of alcohol pancreatitis; acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis. Both are different due to their course and symptoms.

What Causes Alcohol Pancreatitis?

Although there are many causes of pancreatitis, such as infections, drugs, genetic causes, etc., the most common etiologies are gallstones and alcohol. Of these causes, alcohol consumption results in 17%-25% cases of acute pancreatitis worldwide, being the second most common cause after gallstones.

Everybody has a different sensitivity to alcohol and vulnerability to diseases. For example, some individuals develop alcohol pancreatitis when they drink even 20g/day of alcohol. Others don’t develop the disease until they take 200g/day. However, some people, no matter how much they drink, never develop it.

Usually, the disorder manifests with substantial and continuous use of alcohol over five years. While the risk of developing pancreatitis is not increased by the type of alcohol one ingests, alcohol may make the pancreas prone to damage by other factors. Other environmental and external factors include cigarette use, genetics, infectious agents, and a high-fat diet. Moreover, people who drink alcohol more than 400 g per month and are also heavy smokers are at four times greater risk to develop acute pancreatitis.

Above all, chronic alcohol consumption results in 40%-70% of all cases of chronic pancreatitis. And it increases the risk of pancreatic cancer. Moreover, recurrent acute pancreatitis can develop into chronic pancreatitis if the individual is a chronic alcohol abuser. Most studies have shown that chronic pancreatitis injury still exists to some degree at the onset of the episode of acute pancreatitis.

negative feelings.

Although stress doesn’t always cause alcohol addiction, combined with genetics and other risk factors, it can certainly increase the chances of developing an addiction to alcohol.

If you begin drinking alcohol from an early age, then you may be more likely to develop an alcohol addiction in the future. A study named ‘Impact of age at first drink on stress-reactive drinking’ found a link between drinking alcohol under the age of 15 and developing alcohol dependence.

How Does Pancreatitis Develop?

The complete pathophysiology of alcohol pancreatitis is not known. However, pancreatitis results from the effects of alcohol on the small ducts and acinar cells in the pancreas. Alcohol causes pancreatic secretions to precipitate and increase viscosity. This, in turn, results in protein plug development in small ducts. Protein plug obstruction is one of the early occurrences of chronic pancreatitis.

Protein plugs then lead to the formation of calculi, further inflammation, and fibrosis. As a result, islets, ductal and acinar cells are lost. Alcohol also prematurely activates lysosomal, trypsinogen, and other enzymes within the acinar cells. As a result of which, the pancreatic tissue starts to digest itself and causes further inflammation.

What Are The Symptoms Of Alcohol Pancreatitis?

Ings and symptoms of pancreatitis are nausea, pain in the upper abdomen, and vomiting. The individual may also experience severe pain that goes into the back. Although, as mentioned earlier, there are two forms of alcoholic pancreatitis, the symptoms of these conditions are:

Acute Pancreatitis

The painful attack that occurs suddenly but lasts for days is acute pancreatitis. Following are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis:

Chronic Pancreatitis

Recurrent attacks of acute pancreatitis result in chronic pancreatitis, which is irreversible damage to the pancreas. The sustained damage causes a decrease in the secretion of enzymes that play a role in fat absorption and digestion. This leads to loss of digestive function as time progresses. Individuals with pancreatic damage are also prone to the development of diabetes as a result of β-cells destruction.

Some of the common symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are as follow:

If you or your loved ones experience any of these signs and symptoms, don’t waste any time and seek help. Help4addiction professional is available to help 24/7. Just call 0203 955 7700.

How To Diagnose Alcohol Pancreatitis?

Diagnosis of alcohol pancreatitis can be problematic in the early stages. Your doctor will rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as pancreatic cancer or peptic ulcer. Hence, doctors may use different methods to diagnose the issue.

Moreover, your medical health professional will ask your family or personal medical history of alcohol pancreatitis, other health conditions. Doctors will also examine your body for abdominal pain, tenderness, or swelling.

Following tests are used to facilitate correct diagnosis:

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests are usually performed in outpatient settings without any need for anaesthesia for most tests. Some of the imaging tests conducted are:

Computed Tomography Scan (CT)

CT scan is a non-invasive diagnostic procedure that provides detailed information about the pancreas compared to a standard X-ray. In addition, it provides information about disorders or injuries related to the pancreas. It is, therefore, valid for the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis.


Ultrasound can detect gallstones by using safe sound waves to create a picture of an organ’s structure. In addition, doctors may use ultrasound to rule out the cause of pancreatitis.

Pancreatic Function Test

Secretin is a hormone that causes the stomach, liver, and pancreas to release substances helpful for digestion. The pancreatic function test determines the ability of the pancreas to respond to secretin and how the pancreas is functioning. This, in turn, helps detect chronic pancreatitis.

Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)

Professionals use MRCP to view pancreatic ducts and bile ducts. It uses MRI to produce detailed pictures that help specialists diagnose pancreatitis.

Endoscopic Ultrasound

For endoscopic ultrasound, the doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube into the small intestine. Turning on ultrasound attachment then creates pictures of bile ducts and pancreas.

Lab Tests

Lab tests include blood tests and stool tests to help diagnose pancreatitis. Blood samples are tested for:

  • High blood glucose
  • High levels of lipase and amylase enzymes that the pancreas produces
  • High level of blood fats
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Signs of inflammation or infection in liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and bile ducts

Stool Tests

Doctors ask for stool tests to find out fat malabsorption.

What Is The Treatment Of Alcohol Pancreatitis?

The treatment of alcohol pancreatitis is similar to pancreatitis caused by other factors. However, in alcohol pancreatitis, an additional step is the cessation of alcohol. Quitting alcohol will reduce symptoms. For this purpose, different therapy options help individuals prevent further episodes and to recover from them. Treatment options include medications, changing lifestyle, counselling, inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities, and supervised detoxification and withdrawal.

If you have acute pancreatitis, the doctor will treat you in the hospital and closely monitor the signs of any serious problem. The reason is that people with acute pancreatitis may develop complications that require you to be admitted to the hospital. Otherwise, people with mild acute pancreatitis usually get better within 48 hours to a week and don’t experience problems later.

You may be provided with fluids during treatment because acute pancreatitis can make you dehydrated and oxygen to ensure you are getting enough oxygen. Moreover, doctors prescribe painkillers and nutritional support because one may not be able to eat solid foods. Meanwhile, doctors treat other underlying conditions if present.

One must altogether avoid alcohol consumption after recovery. And if you have a dependency on alcohol, don’t hesitate to seek help and ask for support. At Help4addiction, professionals are at your service 24/7. Take free consultation online to find the right solution.


Alcohol pancreatitis is a severe condition that can severely damage the pancreas and its functioning. If you identify the signs or you recognise them in someone else, make sure you contact the medical health professional as soon as possible. Moreover, one must completely avoid alcohol consumption even after recovery

If you have a dependency on alcohol, don’t hesitate to seek help and ask for support. At Help4addiction, professionals are at your service 24/7. Take free consultation online to find the right solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

The main sign of pancreatitis is abdominal pain. Some other symptoms include vomiting, fever, rapid pulse, bloating, tenderness in the abdomen, or pain in the stomach.

Drinking alcohol if you have pancreatitis can further damage the pancreas and worsen the condition, especially if you have alcohol pancreatitis. If pancreatitis is due to other states, then you should wait until you recover completely. After that, you would be able to lead a better life. However, alcohol should be used in moderation. Also, don’t forget to ask your doctor and do as advised.

One may suffer through complications in both acute and chronic pancreatitis. Such complications include damage to the pancreas, leakage from the pancreatic duct, blockage or narrowing in the pancreatic or bile duct, pancreatic pseudocysts, lung, kidney, heart failure, and death. The mortality rate of severe acute pancreatitis is 20%. Hence, if not diagnosed and treated on time, alcohol pancreatitis can lead to death.

Yes, you need to be hospitalised if you have been diagnosed with alcoholic pancreatitis. The treatment for alcohol pancreatitis is the same as pancreatitis caused by other reasons. However, it further includes alcohol cessation during or after admission. Other treatment principles involved are timely diagnosis, prevention of recurrences, analgesics and antiemetics, intravenous fluid therapy, electrolyte replacement, feeding, and intensive care for organ support.

The pancreas metabolises alcohol into byproducts that are toxic and damage the pancreatic ducts. As a result, some enzymes get prematurely activated within the acinar cells of the pancreas. Activation of these enzymes results in auto-digestion of the pancreas leading to further inflammation and damage.

The differential diagnosis for alcohol pancreatitis is broad as many conditions display similar pain patterns. Some differential diagnoses include Aortic pathology, Nephrolithiasis, Ischemic heart disease, Biliary disease secondary to obstructive or infectious pathology, Pancreatitis secondary to other causes, Ectopic pregnancy, Gastritis, or gastroenteritis, Pneumonia, and Bowel perforation or obstruction.

However, a history of alcohol consumption, abdominal pain patterns, imaging findings, and elevated lipase can help diagnose alcohol pancreatitis by ruling out other conditions.

In addition to the history of alcohol consumption and other medical conditions, and physical exam, different tests are conducted to diagnose alcohol pancreatitis. These tests include a blood test, stool test, pancreatic function test, ERCP, biopsy, MRI, CT scan, endoscopy, and ultrasound.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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