Why Do People Drink Alcohol?
Alcohol is the most abused substance in the world. It is also the most socially accepted negative habit. Sometimes it can be difficult to comprehend the reasons why people drink alcohol. There’s some of us that have the innate ability to have one or two standard drinks slowly and stop (not me). Whist there’s others, that seemingly can’t, need to go to a 12 step program or a rehabilitation treatment centre to stop drinking permanently.
Like with many addictive behaviours, people that do them will often ask themselves why they do them, and not be completely aware as to why they may suffer from the condition. The following is a list of some of the reasons why people drink. If you feel that I have missed any, please leave a comment below.
Stress – Alcohol is One Fast Way to Deal With It
Often people drink alcohol because of stress. There aren’t as many effective mechanisms to reduce stress within 10 minutes than drinking alcohol. Fast and relatively cheap (far more expensive than a massage), it’s the go to for so many to deal with standard life hardship. How often do you hear a drinker remark the need for a drink later in the day due to the nature of the day.
“Today has been so bad, I’m going to have a glass of wine tonight, or ten”
The problem with using alcohol to deal with stress is that it’s only a short term fix. If you drink too much, one becomes intoxicated, and one becomes more likely to do something stupid causing more stress in the morning, or worse, for the rest of your life. Think sexual harassment, public vomiting or killing someone drink driving.
If you have the capability to moderate alcohol intake, dealing with stress with a bit of alcohol shouldn’t be dangerous. But if you struggling to be in control, and have even less control after one glass of alcohol, then drinking alcohol to deal with life can be critically dangerous.
If you’re go to is alcohol to deal with life stress, the normal advice that’s spouted by medical professionals is to find alternative healthier means to deal with it like yoga, massage or playing sport. Well intentioned as they may be, the transition is easier said than done. But once it’s been made, it’s always worthwhile.
There’s some that believe that drinking alcohol, and being constantly drunk, is not only a mechanism to deal with stress but rather to also deal with emotional pain.
We know the stereotype of breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, that immediately after, we should go to the bar and drink to ‘ease our sorrows’. In a more severe way, those that suffer from PTSD or depression, have been shown to drink alcohol more than someone who hasn’t (1). Returning soldiers from conflict zones are good examples of people who statistically more likely to drink.
Dr. Gabor Maté believes the function of an addict is to self medicate to deal with stress and emotional pain arising out of a childhood trauma (2). Suggesting the relationship and the mechanism isn’t always conscious.
Of the actors so far profiled on this site, the majority have suffered some form of severe abuse as a child. There are many studies that have connected the two (3). It should be noted here that you don’t need to have been abused to have a problem with alcohol or any other drug for that matter.
People that exhibit certain personality traits are more likely to drink and drink dangerously. People that have impulsive characteristics for example. This nature values immediate rewards over long term rewards. The immediate rewards of binge drinking include alleviation of negative emotional states, anxiety and insecurity.
I have ADHD. I have very little ability to moderate anything. I am extremely impulsive. If I have one beer, I will want the next once as soon as I’ve finished it. Within an hour, I will have had 10.
People that are predisposed to anxiety are also more likely to binge drink. Much in the same way as dealing with stress, alcohol can bring about a sense of relaxation quickly.
If one or both of your parents suffer from alcoholism, it’s been suggested in some studies that you are more like to drink alcohol or have problems drinking since you’re likely to share the same personality traits of those as your parents.
Drinking alcohol can ease tension, increase confidence and therefore social cohesion in a group setting. How often do we see the guy at work who doesn’t say anything, come alive at a christmas party. There are many people who actively seek out alcohol to ‘make their life easier’ and confident in these sorts of settings.
It’s common for companies and sporting teams to build their entire culture on alcohol and drinking it in a social setting. Think Friday night after work or after game drinks. In many groups or companies, you are ostracised when you don’t partake in alcohol.
People that aren’t inclined to drink naturally are more likely to drink when their is peer pressure involved. If drinking at work functions is important, or at least, seen as important for career advancement or progression, you’re going to have a bunch of people drink who wouldn’t normally.
Alcohol has always been associated with having a good time and marketing and advertising have often pushed this angle to increase sales.
Alcohol is a weird substance in our society. It causes more fights, road accidents, subsequent deaths and overall distress in society than any other drug or substance. Yet some far less harmful drugs such as marijuana are banned and prison worthy in some parts of western society.
There are other reasons why people drink alcohol but I think the ones listed above are the crucial tenets behind problem drinking behaviours. If there’s any that you think are important to add, please leave a comment below or get in touch.