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Updated on September 14, 2023
8 min read

10 Reasons Why People Drink Alcohol

People drink alcohol for many different reasons. Some people drink alcohol more than others, and those who consume many alcoholic drinks regularly can develop 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, like:

  • Happy hours
  • Birthday parties
  • Holidays
  • Weddings

A social drinker might enjoy a glass of wine during 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

Your peers may pressure you to engage in activities that you might not do on your own, like drinking alcohol. You can sometimes end up drinking too much due to peer pressure.

Young people, like high school and college students, are especially susceptible to peer pressure. Sometimes, young people begin drinking alcohol to "fit in."

3. Family History of Alcoholism

Like all addictions, alcoholism affects the reward center of the brain. However, the effects of alcohol are long-lasting and can take a toll on your mental health.

Unfortunately, heavy drinkers can pass down these side effects from one generation to the next. If your family has a history of alcohol addiction, you may have a genetic predisposition to develop the same addiction.

4. Stress

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down the central nervous system (CNS). Depressants can induce feelings of relaxation.

This is why some people turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism to escape problems or deal with:

  • Work or school-related problems
  • Social issues
  • Legal troubles
  • Mental health issues

5. Mental Health Issues

Alcohol can provide a mental escape from unpleasant emotions or symptoms caused by mental health conditions like anxiety or depression. This is why some people may abuse alcohol to "self-medicate."

However, people with mental health issues can experience extreme effects from substance use. This could lead to co-occurring disorders like bipolar, anxiety, and depression.

6. Positive Past Experiences

Positive and fun past experiences with alcohol may make someone drink again. On the other hand, a negative experience while drinking may have the opposite effect. Enjoying drinking in the past may motivate you to drink.

7. Environment

The environment a person is in may make drinking more appealing. When alcohol is advertised on television, glorified in the media, or surrounding someone at college, it can become a habit to drink more often.

However, other environmental factors can influence the development of alcoholism. These include:

  • Early exposure to alcohol
  • Stressful or violent environments
  • Poverty

8. Accessibility

Many people drink alcohol because it is incredibly accessible. It is also a widely accepted activity. The accessibility and acceptability of alcohol can make it easier to indulge in it.

9. To Have Fun or Let Loose

Drinking alcohol makes many people feel happy, social, and relaxed. Alcohol often enhances people’s experiences at events or in social gatherings. However, drinking too much can often make you engage in risky behavior and poor decision-making.

10. To Rebel 

Young people, like teenagers, often want to rebel against their parents or the rules. One way to defy the rules placed upon them can be by drinking alcohol. 

Alcohol use is common in young people due to their adolescence and interest in experimenting with adult activities. Additionally, if they have parents or guardians who tend to abuse alcohol, this behavior can rub off on them.

What is Binge Drinking?

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

Binge drinking may or may not lead to more serious alcohol problems, such as alcoholism. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) doesn’t identify binge drinking as a formal disorder.

However, 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.

Why Do People Binge Drink

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
  • Rebellion
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Underage Drinking

Underage drinking is defined as anyone who drinks below the legal age limit, which is 21 years old in the United States. Unfortunately, it’s quite common.

The 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that nearly 17% of teens aged 16 to 17 have consumed alcohol. Similarly, that number jumps to 32% in 18 to 20-year-olds.9

Warning Signs of Underage Drinking

Warning signs of underage drinking include:

  • 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

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.

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.

Casual drinking can turn into binge drinking, which can lead to alcohol abuse, which can lead to alcoholism. Alcohol can harm 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 behavior they will engage in. Drug use and abuse are more common among people with heavy drinking habits.10

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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.11 These people likely experience dependency-induced consequences.

Alcoholism can have consequences that take a serious toll on your:

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Social life
  • Career or school life

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

Excessive, long-term alcohol use affects your brain chemistry. When you stop drinking, the brain is unable to function correctly. This leads to withdrawal.

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is a condition that occurs within hours or a few days after the brain stops receiving alcohol. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can have uncomfortable mental and physical side effects, which vary from person to person.

Symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings (agitation or irritability)
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Insomnia
  • Mild tremors or shakes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cognitive issues (confusion or thinking problems)
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Breathing problems
  • Fever and sweating
  • Tactile, auditory, or visual hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous, especially with seizures or delirium tremens. If you or someone you know is experiencing alcohol withdrawal, seek immediate medical attention.

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Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

There are many different options to consider when addressing a substance abuse disorder.

Five treatment options include:

1. Behavioral Therapy

In behavioral therapy, health professionals help people identify the behaviors that lead them to drink heavily. They also help them develop the skills to stop drinking, detox, build a strong support system, and cope with triggers.

2. Biofeedback Therapy

Biofeedback therapy (or neurofeedback therapy) uses an electroencephalograph (EEG) to train the brain to function more efficiently. An EEG listens to a patient’s brainwave activity to help them identify triggers and stress-induced psychological responses.

3. Holistic Therapy

Holistic therapy combines many therapies that focus on a person’s mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

4. Family Therapy

Family members like spouses and siblings can play a significant role in the treatment process. Family therapy incorporates family members in therapy sessions.

A loved one can help monitor an alcohol user’s consumption of alcoholic beverages. Loved ones can play 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. AA offers anyone with an alcohol problem accountability meetings and discussion groups about addiction. AA uses a 12-Step program to help members overcome alcohol addictions, which they can revisit whenever they need.

Summary

Alcohol is a common staple of adult life. It's often used in celebrations, gatherings, and other social occasions.

There are various reasons why people start drinking alcohol, young adults are especially susceptible to drinking. However, not all of them are good reasons, these include self-medication, addiction, and peer pressure.

Excessive alcohol use can quickly lead to addiction and dependence, which can cause long-term physical and mental health complications. If you struggle with abstaining from alcohol consider seeking treatment.

Updated on September 14, 2023
11 sources cited
Updated on September 14, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Peer Pressure.”  AACAP, 2018.
  2. Alcohol Use as a Coping Mechanism.” Sandstone Care,
  3. Binge Drinking Is a Serious but Preventable Problem of Excessive Alcohol Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019. 
  4. What Is A Social Drinker?: Gateway Foundation.” Foundation, Gateway, 2020. 
  5. Heshmat, S. “Why Do People Drink?” Psychology Today, 2017.
  6. Home.” Sanctuary Lodge, 2019. 
  7. Peer Pressure (for Teens) - Nemours KidsHealth.”. KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation.
  8. Underage Drinking.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020.
  9. The Fight Against Underage Drinking | Stats on Teen Alcohol Use.” Responsibility.org, 2020.
  10. Alcohol and Other Drugs.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2008.
  11. The American Alcohol Problem: An Overlooked and Deadly Epidemic.” Caron.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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