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Reasons People Drink

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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 Reasons

Some people consider themselves social drinkers, as they consume alcohol in various social situations — 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 unique 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, are especially susceptible to peer pressure. Sometimes they begin drinking alcohol to "fit in" even if they never planned to do so.

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 their drinking problems down to their children.

People with a family history of alcoholism have a genetic disposition to also develop alcoholism. Furthermore, people with alcoholics on both sides of their families are more likely to develop alcoholism unless they never start drinking.

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

Alcohol can provide a mental escape from one’s own mind, which is why some people may abuse alcohol in an attempt to "self-medicate". However, people with mental health issues can experience extreme effects from substance use. This could even lead to co-occurring disorders.

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 are more likely to lose emotional control.

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
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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

Note: Many of these warning signs also correlate with typical characteristics of adolescence. Consult a doctor if these symptoms seem abnormal or last for a long period of time.

Why is it Bad to Drink Alcohol?

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol on occasion is not harmful to most people. But drinking frequently or heavily 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)
  • Accidents, such as automobile crashes
  • DUI/DWI citations
  • Arrests for public intoxication
  • Physical fights and/or other aggressive behaviors
the health effects of alcohol

The more someone drinks, the more dangerous and risky behavior they will engage in. Drug use and drug abuse are more common among people who have heavy drinking habits.

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Dangers of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is characterized by an addiction to alcohol (alcohol use disorder). Alcoholics can experience withdrawal when they’re not drinking, which makes 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.

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Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

People who personally know or who have worked with addicts and alcoholics recognize the affected person can only receive help if they want it. If the person does want to improve their situation, help is accessible.

Five treatment options include:

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 drinking, detox, 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. Loved ones are a huge part in helping an alcoholic through all stages of recovery.

5. Alcoholics Anonymous 

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is arguably the most well-known support group for addiction treatment, offering anyone with an alcohol problem accountability meetings and discussion groups about addiction.

It considers itself “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.

Updated on March 15, 2022
8 sources cited
  1. Aacap. Peer Pressure, www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Peer-Pressure-104.aspx
  2. “Alcohol Use as a Coping Mechanism.” Sandstone Care, www.sandstonecare.com/resources/substance-abuse/alcohol/alcohol-use-as-a-coping-mechanism
  3. “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
  4. Foundation, Gateway. “What Is A Social Drinker?: Gateway Foundation.” Gateway, 14 July 2020, www.gatewayfoundation.org/addiction-blog/social-drinking
  5. 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
  6. “Home.” Sanctuary Lodge, 25 Nov. 2019, www.sanctuarylodge.com/alcohol-addiction/why-do-people-turn-to-alcohol/
  7. “Peer Pressure (for Teens) - Nemours KidsHealth.” Edited by D'Arcy Lyness, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, July 2015, kidshealth.org/en/teens/peer-pressure.html.
  8. “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.

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