It is often the case that people suffering from stress will increase their alcohol consumption and subsequently, increased alcohol consumption will increase stress levels. It has previously been unknown, however, as to why exactly acute stress can lead to increased alcohol consumption.
Some research has suggested that alcohol is perceived to decrease the physiological and negative emotions such as anger associated with stress. Additionally, it has also been suggested that stress can dampen the effects of alcohol on the body . Stress for example, could reduce the intoxicating effects of alcohol. Subsequently, individuals may be more inclined to drink larger quantities of alcohol to produce its desired effect.
A newer study concluded that different phases of the stress response can alter the subjective effects of alcohol. This means that the different stages of stress can change a person’s perspectives, feelings and beliefs about alcohol.
The fight or flight response instigates changes in heart rate and blood pressure, the release of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol and instigates feelings of tension and sometimes negative mood. Each of these elements of the stress response is initiated and dissipates at different rates. Therefore, consuming increased amounts of alcohol might induce different effects, depending on which stage of the stress response the individual is in.
Rather that turning to alcohol to numb the physical and psychological impact of stress, there are other means of relaxing and addressing stressful situations. Learning Mindfulness meditation and practicing yoga or tai chi have been found to reduce stress, anxiety and depression all of which are associated alcoholism if left unaddressed.