Pancreatitis and Alcohol

There is a  connection between pancreatitis and alcohol. However, it is often misunderstood. Many people think that drinking alcohol causes chronic pancreatitis. This is wrong! New studies show that pancreatitis is not a disease of alcoholics. Alcohol alone does not directly cause chronic pancreatitis. However, if you have chronic pancreatitis, you should not drink any alcohol.

The True Connection

  • Alcohol consumption does not directly cause
    chronic pancreatitis
  • Only very heavy drinking, or binge drinking, can lead to chronic pancreatitis. This means five drinks per day over a long time.
  • Less than 5% of people who abuse alcohol will develop chronic “alcohol-induced” pancreatitis
  • Tobacco is a greater risk factor than alcohol

Chronic Pancreatitis and Alcohol: True or False


  • Alcohol can increase the risk of chronic pancreatitis
  • Alcohol does not directly cause the disease
  • Alcohol can be one of many factors (genetics, unknown causes)
  • Only very heavy alcohol consumption  (5 drinks or more per day for 5 years) can cause chronic pancreatitis
  • Less than 5% of those who abuse alcohol will develop chronic pancreatitis
  • Once diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, you cannot drink any alcohol


  • Alcohol is the greatest risk factor for chronic pancreatitis
  • Alcoholism is the leading cause of chronic pancreatitis
  • Most chronic pancreatitis cases are due to alcohol abuse
  • You can continue drinking after a chronic pancreatitis diagnosis

The Harm

The widespread belief that chronic pancreatitis is usually caused by alcohol abuse is harmful. Because most doctors believe that drinking is the most common cause of chronic pancreatitis:

Patients Don’t Get the Best Care

  • Children are accused of drinking
  • Parents of young patients are accused of giving their children alcohol
  • Light drinkers aren’t properly diagnosed after attacks because doctors rule out pancreatitis
  • Patients who drink are blamed for their illness
  • Patients who do not drink are accused of lying

A Focus on Alcohol Slows the Process of Developing Cures and Treatments

  • Physicians focus on the wrong things 
  • Patients are misdiagnosed

Physicians and researchers have focused on the impact of alcohol on pancreatitis patients for far too long. This has led to poor outcomes for patients. It must change.

Can Pancreatitis Patients Drink Alcohol?

If you have chronic pancreatitis, you should not drink alcoholic beverages under any circumstances. Carrying on drinking will result in extreme abdominal pain. Also, it will cause the pancreas to inflame and will continue to damage the pancreatic tissue.

You cannot drink wine, beer, or spirits if you have chronic pancreatitis. Even one sip can cause extreme pain.

Resources to Stop Drinking

Alcoholism is not a leading cause of chronic pancreatitis. However, for some it is a factor. If you need help quitting drinking after a pancreatitis diagnosis, here are some resources:

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