Does Drinking Relieve Stress?



America has established a societal norm of using drinking to socialize, relax, and have fun. Most often, the phrase “unwind” is used – after work, on the weekends, or to get through a stressful event. If you’ve used alcohol to relieve your stress before, you may have felt that it worked, at least temporarily. As Healthline notes, alcohol is a sedative and depressant that directly affects the central nervous system. For a moment, alcohol may cause you to feel relaxed and less shy. However, more research is showing that alcohol can actually increase anxiety and can lead to further problems related to alcoholism.

CNN states that alcohol isn’t metabolized in the body the same way food and drinks are; on a physical level, your body has added stress attempting to break this down, even if you feel relaxed. Furthermore, alcohol induces serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety even after a person stops drinking.

A 2017 study conducted Penn State researchers found that of 744 first year college students, the more students rank to cope with stress, the more likely they were to face problems later on with alcohol. Michael Russell, assistant professor of biobehavioral health at the university, stated, “The people who showed more stress-related drinking – whose drinking really spikes when they’re stressed – they were more likely to develop harmful drinking behavior at the end of college”. Although the study was conducted with college students, it can likely be a similar pattern of events with others.

Drinking to relieve stress can quickly turn to alcohol dependence, which is characterized by:

  • Needing a drink to make it through the morning/afternoon/evening
  • Drinking heavily four or more days each week
  • Requiring a drink at every get-together
  • Inability to stop drinking
  • Drinking 5 or more alcoholic beverages in one day

While drinking may seem to relieve stress in the short term, there are many long-term effects. Heavy drinking could lead to a hangover, which could add even more stress the next day to complete daily tasks. This could easily turn into a negative, perpetual cycle. Feelings of nausea, dizziness, dehydration and low blood sugar means that you could miss out on work and family responsibilities, yielding more stressful events.

If you’re feeling stressed, find healthy ways to relax. Read a good book, exercise, go for a walk, engage in a healthy hobby, etc. If you’re struggling with alcoholism, make the choice to take back control over your life today, and seek help.

Located in Orange County, CA, Simple Recovery is a world-renowned drug and alcohol treatment center that believes that recovery is a process, not a destination. Our Simple Recovery programs include a variety of resources such as relapse prevention and support, group and individual therapy, vocational and educational programming, and more. If you’re in search of freedom from addiction, call us today at 888-207-0965. Recovery is possible.