In some of my earlier posts, I shared that my late brother consumed alcohol, perhaps a little more than he should (if he should have even been drinking at all). In my opinion, I think he did it as an act of defiance, not wanting to allow the fact that he had sickle cell completely take over his life or feel the need to rely solely medication to ease his pain.
Alcohol is harmful to people with SCD because it can cause addiction and permanent damage to vital body organs. For the sickle cell drinker, alcohol consumption can cause excessive fluid loss from the body because frequent urination occurs more often after drinking. When this happens and if the lost fluids are not replaced, the sickler becomes dehydrated and a pain crisis can be triggered. It is important for sickle cell patients to drink at least 8 glasses of water each day because if the body is low on fluids, the blood cells stick together blocking blood vessels. This leads the affected tissue to become inflamed and again, this results in painful crisis.
However, sickle cell patients who drink alcohol is not an uncommon case in the medical world. Doctors in fact claim that the consumption of alcohol is frequently seen in sickle cell patients and have postulated that drinking for many of them seems to be more of a help than hindrance. It has been recorded that some sickle cell patients who drink make fewer trips to the hospital because with alcohol they are able to cope with and manage their pain better. Since alcohol is known to have analgesic and physiological effects on the body, those who simultaneously drink and increase their fluid intake (with water), it means that they suffer from less pain crisis thus requiring fewer trips to the emergency room. Their quality of life therefore slightly improves.
Since it is impossible for medical practitioners to encourage drinking alcohol to people suffering from SCD as a medium to study more of its direct impacts on the body, the question then becomes is the sickle cell drinker doing this as a response to a lack of social support from the society as a whole? Because crisis can occur at any time necessitating hospitalization and medication, sickle cell patients have turned to drinking alcohol to avoid the societal stigma attached of being addicted to pain meds. Drinking means they can ignore their pain and divert their attention to something else so they do not need to take drugs/opioids to ease their distress.
What are your thoughts on this? Please share in the comments.