According to one study, 63% of U.S. adults aged 18 and older drink alcohol. Have you ever stopped to consider why such a large percentage of the population chooses to imbibe?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer that will apply to everyone. However, there are a few overarching reasons why people turn to this substance.
If you’ve ever wondered, “Why do people drink alcohol?”, then read on. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the psychology behind this decision, and what goes into making it.
To Seek an Escape From Problems or Stress
You know those feelings of deep relaxation and euphoria you get when you have a glass of wine or beer? That’s the result of your central nervous system (CNS) slowing down.
Drinking alcohol slows your body’s natural CNS response, which can help reduce your level of stress, fear, and nervousness. If you’re one of the more than 40 million U.S. adults who suffer from an anxiety disorder, this may be an appealing reason for you. Not only does it seem like an ideal coping mechanism, but it can also serve as a vehicle to help you distance yourself from some of the most uncomfortable stressors in your life.
While alcohol might help relieve some of this discomfort in the short term, it’s important to understand the dangers of blindly drinking to cope. The depressing effects that alcohol has on your CNS are short-lived. They will fade in time, which can leave you wanting more.
This is how an alcohol addiction often forms. If you find yourself constantly reaching for the bottle to shake off the stress of the day, there are alcohol addiction treatment programs that can help. you find better, healthier, and more effective ways to respond.
To Recall Positive Experiences
Although alcohol can bring devastating consequences when it turns into an addiction, many people still associate it with a fun or enjoyable time they’ve had in the past. Often, those times occur when someone enjoys alcohol to a limited extent, and doesn’t overindulge.
This can encourage someone to try it again, though they may not show the same level of restraint. The more that the individual seeks to recall or remember the past, the more they may drink.
As a Result of Glorification
There’s no denying that the media portrays drinking as a luxurious, exciting activity. There are commercials, movies, and TV shows that depict some of the most glamorous characters around with a glass of wine in their hand or a beer on the couch.
This can motivate someone to drink more often, even if they were never very interested in the habit in the past. This is another, more indirect form of peer pressure that can be equally consequential. It’s helpful to think critically of the content we consume and determine the root message it’s trying to portray.
Often, those characters or situations are used to drive alcohol sales, especially in commercials. When we think of the environment more objectively, it becomes easier to avoid getting wrapped up in the sensationalism of the scene.
Due to Accessibility
Sometimes, a person may drink simply because the alcohol is accessible to them. This is especially common in young adults, where parents may keep wine, beer, or liquor in the family cabinet. At that age, drinking may seem especially exciting, and the ease of access makes it more tempting to try.
This is why it’s so important to keep alcoholic beverages secure within a home and to have honest and open conversations with your children and teenagers about drinking. If it’s readily available for them to access, their natural inclination will be to do so.
To Have Fun
Have you ever been at a party and felt immediately out of place? You might be a social butterfly on a normal basis, but when you’re in a room full of strangers, it can be hard to get your vibe flowing.
When this happens, it may be tempting to visit the bar or reach for a cocktail as they’re passed around the room. After all, you know that one of the ways alcohol affects your CNS is by lowering your inhibitions. When you first consume it, you may find that it gives you the confidence and assurance necessary to make conversation, work the room, or visit the dance floor.
While this can be a comforting boost for some, it’s important to realize that losing your sense of self-control is never a good thing. If you don’t feel fully in control of your speech and motions, then you could put yourself in a dangerous situation. Though some social drinkers can handle a few glasses of wine or beer, others are better off sipping on mocktails to avoid having too much fun and paying for it later.
To Be Social
There’s a large group of people who consider themselves purely social drinkers. They might not keep alcohol in the house or drink when they’re alone, but they will order a beverage when they’re out with friends in social situations, such as:
- Happy hours
- Work parties
If they can stick to drinking responsibly and limit their intake during such situations, social drinkers normally don’t develop a more serious alcohol addiction. Yet, it’s important to be aware of this habit and how it could affect their lifestyle. It can be concerning when self-proclaimed social drinkers begin looking for any opportunity they can find to gather with friends and enjoy a few drinks.
As a Response to Peer Pressure
When we think about peer pressure, we normally associate it with an underage teenager being tempted to drink by his or her friends. While this is definitely a common occurrence, the reality is that peer pressure can exist at any age.
For instance, someone who’s committed to a sober lifestyle might go out with friends and suddenly feel obligated to indulge in social drinking simply because everyone else is doing it. Or, someone who enjoys only partaking a little might feel pressured to drink more than they usually do to fit in with the crowd.
Alcohol is commonly served at group functions because it temporarily allows people to release their nerves and network or mingle more easily. While this might be seen as a positive, the stimulation it provides is short-lived, at best.
Before long, that initial feeling of being “free” can quickly turn into more negative emotions, such as anger or fear. You may even start to feel anxious or depressed, especially as you lose control of your reasoning and decision-making abilities.
This can make social circles much more difficult to maneuver. If you find yourself surrounded by negative peer pressure, it may be time to reevaluate your friendships and connections and seek to align yourself with those who will support you on your journey.
Whether they’ve been officially diagnosed with mental health disorders or not, many people feel like their minds need a place to escape. In fact, one study shows that 51% of young people commonly feel down, depressed, or hopeless.
When this is the case, alcohol can seem like an attractive option. As it depresses your CNS, it can relax your mind, calm your anxieties, and create a general sense of calm throughout your mental and physical presence.
Again, however, this reaction can soon deliver the opposite effect. Those who turn to drinking to cope or “space out” will often find that alcohol and drugs make them feel even more upset or sad, especially as they increase their consumption.
Similar to many other addictions, alcohol addiction triggers the reward system in one’s brain. This is why it can be such a difficult condition to overcome, and why overdoses and relapses are increasingly common. If an individual has a family history of alcoholism, they may be more predisposed to abuse this substance themselves.
In one recent study related to genetic factors, researchers found that there is a gene known to affect someone’s risk of becoming addicted to alcohol. However, they also determined there were multiple other genes that can also contribute to that risk, although to a lesser degree.
At the same time, researchers also noted that there were several genetic factors that linked alcohol dependence to other types of psychiatric disorders, including depression. If you have a known family history of alcohol addiction, it’s important to understand your connection to this substance and how it could affect you.
Why Do People Drink Alcohol? Find Support for Alcohol Addiction
As you can see, there isn’t a clear-cut answer to the question, “Why do people drink alcohol?” Individuals might be drawn to this substance for a variety of different reasons, including any of the ones above.
Some may pursue it to become more social, while others seek relief and release from stress and anxiety. Then, there are some who are naturally more drawn to alcohol due to family history, accessibility, and peer pressure.
When drinking turns into an addiction, the results can be difficult for the entire family. At Purpose Healing Center, we offer treatment programs and therapies that can help. To learn more about the services we offer, contact us today.