Author: Alex Thompson

The 4 Main Reasons Why We Drink

Why Do Alcoholics Drink

Enjoying a drink feels different than needing a drink to tolerate a painful or difficult experience. Also, our brain’s ability to adjust to novel situations relies on repeated exposure with positive outcomes. Dulling our learning centers with a sedative like alcohol makes it much harder to rewire our brains and improve our confidence and comfort in new situations.

  1. The first two are considered negative drinking motives and relate to winding down—using alcohol to “deal with it,” whatever “it” is for you.
  2. The flush reaction is more common in Asian populations but can occur among other groups as well.
  3. Instead, MacKillop suggests adolescents could be provided with better education about alcohol’s risks, and the ways that it can affect the maturing brain.
  4. Also, sadness, anger, frustration, and even boredom can turn our attention to a cocktail.
  5. The most important changes include a decline in “grey matter” as the brain prunes away the synapses that allow one cell to communicate with another.
  6. The avoidance common in the socially anxious may be initially overcome through alcohol, but requires repeated doses if an individual wants to re-engage in the future.

The almost immediate sedative effects of a drink can bring relief from intense anxiety, though like the strategy of avoidance, this only works for a short time, followed by a return of possibly stronger worry. It can provide similar relief to help us fall asleep but tends to interfere with deep, restorative sleep, leaving us feeling groggy the next day. As a psychiatrist treating adults suffering with anxiety, depression, and insomnia, I have witnessed this trend in numerous patients, both male and female, but particularly among the overstressed, exhausted mothers in my practice. Many cite their increased use as a cause for concern but are struggling to cut back despite their awareness of alcohol’s negative effects on their physical and mental health.

Get the help you need from a therapist near you–a FREE service from Psychology Today. It took me a whole week of headaches before I discovered that a can of emptied cat food had fallen behind the trash can and rolled to the back of the cabinet. The cat had been smelling the fish and thought he would find a feast if he got behind the trash bin. OpenLearn works with other organisations by providing free courses and resources that support our mission of opening up educational opportunities to more people in more places. Sign up for free and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips, current health topics, and expertise on managing health.

A drink will warm me up

At 18, my brain was still metamorphosing, and would not reach maturity for at least seven years. This alters the way we respond to alcohol – and drinking during this critical period can have long-term consequences for our cognitive development. In fact, alcohol actually lowers your core body temperature because the rush of blood to the skin’s surface is a means of body cooling. Despite the fact that we may opt to partake in a nightcap, research shows  that certain doses of alcohol may reduce the amount of slow wave and REM sleep we have. So it may help us to drop off faster, but alcohol doesn’t result in a better quality of sleep. REM sleep is important for cognitive processes such as memory consolidation  so reducing the time in which this process occurs has a detrimental effect on memory.

Why Do Alcoholics Drink

Let’s consider several factors that are likely to lead to an increased motivation to consume alcohol. The relationship between these two factors is multiplicative (Value x Likelihood). This means that there will be no motivation to the goal pursuit if the value of the goal is zero, no matter how high the likelihood of success. Similarly, there will be no motivation if the expected chance is quite low. Over time, we may start to drink not because we’re already feeling bad but because we’re worried we might feel bad later, like taking a drink before bed to avoid lying awake worrying.

It depends on what you are drinking (some drinks like alcopops contain more sugar) and people obviously have different taste preferences. The fact that ethanol is created from sugars is also likely to increase our propensity to drink. For example, research suggests that some individuals have a predisposition to prefer sugar and this can make them more prone to developing alcohol addiction.

The experience of alcohol flush reactions (e.g., body flushes and nausea) after ingestion negatively affects the value of drinking alcohol. The flush reaction is more common in Asian populations but can occur among other groups as well. People with this reaction experience drinking alcohol as less pleasurable than others do, and they have lower drinking rates. “I think there’s this very little public appetite for a drinking age of 25,” says James MacKillop, who studies addictive behaviour at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. “High minimum legal ages are perceived as paternalistic, and they can be seen as hypocritical if the legal age of majority for voting, or the legal age to serve in the military, is 18 or 19.”

How To Have A Difficult Conversation About Addiction With Your Loved One

I certainly know that I looked a little like a “bobblehead” toy, and these relative proportions can also influence the intoxication that someone experiences. When you drink alcohol, it enters your bloodstream and spreads through your body. Within five minutes, it reaches your brain, easily crossing the blood-brain-barrier that generally protects your brain from harmful substances. “A relatively large part of the alcohol ends up in the brains of young people, and that is yet another reason why young people are more likely to get alcohol poisoning,” Roodbeen says. If we chose modest consumption, identifying the proper environments and reasons to reach for a drink can feel empowering. Perhaps a glass of wine during a conversation with a friend is a pleasure we want to allow ourselves and helps us feel connected and engaged.

And bathing our neurons in alcohol – which is known to release inhibition – may only amplify this thrill chasing. For particularly impetuous teenagers, alcohol can create a vicious cycle of bad behaviour and delinquency. “The more impulsive kids tend to drink more, and then drinking causes more impulsivity,” says Squeglia. I’ve heard drinking described as “a cup of extroversion,” providing confidence in situations that otherwise would trigger awkwardness, embarrassment, or even anxiety.

Alcohol use disorder

The study also revealed that there are specific genes that contribute to alcohol use disorder. Some people, for example, have genes that allow them to metabolize alcohol in a way that increases the pleasure they experience when drinking, making them more likely to drink more. Other people have genes that alter their rate of alcohol metabolism, causing them to have symptoms like flushing, nausea, mood swings, and a rapid heartbeat, making them more likely to avoid alcohol. The brain has a delicate balance of chemicals called neurotransmitters.

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory. Jeanette Hu, AMFT, is a San Francisco-based therapist who helps people to become curious about their relationship with substances. To resist the lure of alcohol, willpower alone is often not sufficient.

That doesn’t mean people who drink for fun aren’t at risk of developing problems.

The important thing is that we understand our relationship with alcohol, realize where it may not be serving us, and make informed decisions about its presence in our lives. For example, mothers, a frequently targeted group for marketing all products, are now encouraged to share their love for alcohol on t-shirts, mugs, and even children’s clothing. In our society, a mother describing how the stress of raising kids led to hefty wine consumption is as acceptable as tired jokes about burning dinner or useless husbands. It is also known  that alcohol acts on the process of long-term potentiation – the way in which neurons remodel the connections between them after learning. So alterations in both REM and slow wave sleep after drinking may potentially disrupt the brain’s memory processes. If you are concerned about your drinking or that of a loved one, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has resources to help you identify problems and get help.

Alcohol also seems to act on some of the same brain areas activated by sweet tastes . If you feel that you sometimes drink too much alcohol, or your drinking is causing problems, or if your family is concerned about your drinking, talk with your health care provider. Other ways to get help include talking with a mental health professional or seeking help from a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar type of self-help group. If your pattern of drinking results in repeated significant distress and problems functioning in your daily life, you likely have alcohol use disorder. However, even a mild disorder can escalate and lead to serious problems, so early treatment is important.

Alcohol, then, represents the daily end of responsibility, the party flag beckoning us to relax and have some fun. A Saturday Night Live sketch skewered this trend by asking cast member Aidy Bryant, as the birthday girl, to showcase the variety of gifts given by her group of close female friends. As she pulled out framed quotes like “Wine gets better with age, I get better with wine,” and “Can you drunk how tell I am? The fun, wink-wink aspect of girls’ night had turned into a thinly veiled judgment of her life choices. Because denial is common, you may feel like you don’t have a problem with drinking.

We don’t realize that there is often a logical reason behind each behavior, disturbed or not. What I found particularly interesting about Ms. Whitaker’s book was the way she challenged the cultural acceptance of most forms of drinking, and how societal pressures shape our seemingly independent choices. If you’re new to university-level study, read our guide on Where to take your learning next, or find out more about the types of qualifications we offer including entry level Access modules, Certificates, and Short Courses. Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you’ll want a trusted University. We’ve pioneered distance learning for over 50 years, bringing university to you wherever you are so you can fit study around your life.