Reasons People Drink

5 Reasons Why People Drink Alcohol

People drink alcohol for many different reasons. However, some people drink alcohol more than others, and those who consume many alcoholic drinks on a regular basis can develop a dependency on it (alcohol use disorder). 

Here are some of the most common reasons why people drink alcohol:

1. Social Environments

Some people consider themselves social drinkers, as they consume alcohol when they’re at specific events — happy hours, birthday parties, holidays, etc. They might enjoy a glass of wine on an evening out with friends or during another social activity. This form of drinking typically doesn't disrupt their lives or cause any personal or major health problems long-term.

2. Peer Pressure

While your peers may help you develop new skills or invoke new interests, they can also pressure you to engage in activities that you may not have otherwise chosen on your own, such as drinking alcohol. Some people start drinking or drink too much due to peer pressure — young people like high school and college students, for example, may be especially susceptible to peer pressure.

3. Family History of Alcoholism

The effects of alcohol are long-lasting and can take a toll on your health well beyond a hangover. Like all addictions, alcoholism affects the reward center of the brain, and heavy drinkers can pass this down to their children. So people with a family history of alcoholism are at a higher risk of developing alcoholism or practicing poor drinking patterns themselves.

4. Stress

Alcohol slows down the central nervous system (CNS), which can create feelings of relaxation. This is why some people turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with stress. Alcohol is a vehicle for some people to distance themselves from the various stressors in their lives.

5. Mental Health Issues

While alcoholism can cause mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, the opposite can also be true for some people. Alcohol can provide a mental escape from one’s own mind, which is why some people may abuse alcohol to become less present.

Why Do People Binge Drink?

Binge drinking is the most common, expensive, and lethal pattern of excessive alcohol use across the country. It’s a pattern of drinking that elevates a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or higher. This typically happens after five or more drinks for men after four or more drinks for women in about 2 hours.

Binge drinking doesn’t always lead to more serious alcohol problems, such as alcoholism. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) doesn’t identify binge drinking as a formal disorder. But it is a behavior that can be a risk factor for formal disorders and is still dangerous. People who binge drink are more accident-prone, are at a higher risk of making poor decisions, and can more easily lose emotional control, for example.

Still, people binge drink for many of the same reasons people drink in general:

  • Social environments
  • Peer pressure
  • Family history of alcoholism
  • Stress
  • Mental health disorders

Why Do Many Young People Drink Alcohol?

Many young people drink alcohol for the above reasons. Young people can be especially susceptible to peer pressure, wanting to fit in with their friends or the environment in which they’re drinking. Likewise, if they have parents or guardians who tend to abuse alcohol, this behavior can rub off on them. Young people may also be enticed to drink due to increased independence as they get older.

Warning Signs of Underage Drinking

Underage drinking is defined as anyone who drinks below the legal age limit (which is 21 years old in the United States). And it’s quite common. By age 15, nearly 30 percent of teens have had at least one drink and, by 18 years old, that number jumps to about 58 percent.

Here are some warning signs of underage drinking of which you should be aware.

  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Low energy levels
  • Decreased interest in certain activities
  • Decreased care about appearance
  • Changing friends
  • Academic problems in school
  • Behavioral problems (in and outside of school)
  • Rebelliousness
  • Issues concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Slurred speech
  • Finding or smelling alcohol on them or in their things

Why is it Bad to Drink Alcohol?

Drinking alcohol isn’t necessarily bad, but drinking too much or too often can lead to health issues and/or alcoholism. That’s because casual drinking can turn into binge drinking, which can lead to alcohol abuse, which can ultimately lead to alcoholism.

Alcohol can have dangerous effects on your health and impair your ability to make sound decisions. The following potential consequences can affect you long term:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon
  • Weakened immune system
  • Learning and memory problems
  • Mental health problems (i.e. depression or anxiety)
  • Social problems (i.e. family issues or unemployment)
  • Alcohol use disorders (i.e. alcoholism)

Dangers of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is characterized by an addiction to alcohol (alcohol use disorder). Alcoholics can suffer from withdrawals while they’re not drinking that make it even harder to quit. An estimated 15 million people cope with alcoholism in the United States. These people likely experience dependency-induced consequences.

Alcoholism can have all of the aforementioned consequences and take a serious toll on not just your physical and mental health, but also on your social life and career. 

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Various treatments are available to help anyone with an alcohol addiction. Here are five options:

1. Behavioral Therapy

In behavioral therapy, a health professional like an addiction counselor will help a patient identify the behaviors that lead them to drink heavily. From there, they help them develop the skills they need to stop or reduce drinking, build a strong support system, and cope with drinking triggers.

2. Biofeedback Therapy

Biofeedback therapy (also known as neurofeedback therapy) uses an electroencephalograph (EEG) to train the brain to function more efficiently. It listens to a patient’s brainwave activity, so it can help identify triggers and stress-induced psychological responses.

3. Holistic Therapy

Holistic therapy combines many therapies, focusing on a person’s mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Every alcoholism treatment program will vary depending on each person and the rehabilitation center they choose.

4. Family Therapy

Family members like spouses and siblings can play a significant role in the treatment process. Family therapy, therefore, incorporates them in therapy sessions. A loved one can help monitor an alcohol user’s consumption of alcoholic beverages, for example, and support them in quitting their heavy drinking behavior or alcohol consumption altogether.

5. Alcoholics Anonymous 

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is arguably the most well-known support group for alcoholics, offering anyone with an alcohol problem accountability meetings and discussion groups about addiction. It considers itself a “nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere.” AA also uses a 12-Step program to help members overcome alcohol addictions, which they can revisit whenever they need it.

Resources

Aacap. Peer Pressure, www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Peer-Pressure-104.aspx

“Alcohol Use as a Coping Mechanism.” Sandstone Care, www.sandstonecare.com/resources/substance-abuse/alcohol/alcohol-use-as-a-coping-mechanism

“Binge Drinking Is a Serious but Preventable Problem of Excessive Alcohol Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Dec. 2019, www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm

Foundation, Gateway. “What Is A Social Drinker?: Gateway Foundation.” Gateway, 14 July 2020, www.gatewayfoundation.org/addiction-blog/social-drinking

Heshmat, Shahram. “Why Do People Drink?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 3 Mar. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201703/why-do-people-drink

“Home.” Sanctuary Lodge, 25 Nov. 2019, www.sanctuarylodge.com/alcohol-addiction/why-do-people-turn-to-alcohol/

“Peer Pressure (for Teens) - Nemours KidsHealth.” Edited by D'Arcy Lyness, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, July 2015, kidshealth.org/en/teens/peer-pressure.html.

“Underage Drinking.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 27 Jan. 2020, www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/underage-drinking.

Updated on: September 30, 2020
Author
AnnaMarie Houlis
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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