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Drinking Habits

Why Do People Drink Alcohol? The Timeless Allure of Booze

July 10, 2023
9 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 10, 2023
9 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 10, 2023
9 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 10, 2023
9 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 10, 2023
9 min read

As poet Charles Bukowski writes, “If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”

People drink for all sorts of reasons, but whether they actually get what they want out of it is a whole different story. Despite the fact that much of the perceived “benefits” are short-lived at best, alcohol seems to have a hold over us — and has, for centuries. So why do people drink? And why do people like getting drunk, even when it clearly doesn’t benefit them, especially in the long run? Part of the answer lies in science; another part lies in cultural influence.

Why Do People Drink: A Boozy History

Whether it's a wedding, a backyard barbecue, or a simple dinner at home, alcohol often takes center stage. This penchant for alcoholic beverages stretches back thousands of years. But what makes alcohol so enticing? 

The story of alcohol is as old as civilization itself. Archaeologists believe that our ancestors stumbled upon the process of fermentation accidentally, probably when some fruit or grains were left to rot in a water-filled container. This windfall quickly caught on as people realized the effects of this "magical" brew. Imagine the sheer delight and surprise of those ancient folks when a sip of an odd-looking fruit stew made the worries of the prehistoric world momentarily slip away.

From the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians who brewed beer to the Greeks and Romans who considered wine an integral part of their diet, alcohol flows through thousands of years of human history. The reasons? Well, let's dig into that next.

“Some Dance To Remember, Some Dance To Forget”

When we sip an alcoholic drink, ethanol — the active ingredient in alcohol — enters the bloodstream and quickly finds its way to the brain. Once there, it taps into the brain's reward system, releasing feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine. The result? That fuzzy warm feeling, the hearty laughter, and the lowered inhibitions that make us feel relaxed and sociable. It's a carefree euphoria on demand — no wonder it can quickly become irresistible!

The “hook” that keeps us coming back to alcohol can vary from one person to another. 

However, it tends to be one of two things: some people are drawn to alcohol’s stimulating qualities, while others mainly see it as a way to relax. Similarly, some of us might drink to feel inspired while others might literally “drink to oblivion.” Of course, it’s also common to experience both impulses, depending on the situation.

Breaking Free From Alcohol's Allure

Why Do People Like Getting Drunk (Even When It Causes Problems)?

Whatever our motivation, there's usually a plot twist in the story of alcohol use if it continues. After a while, the brain’s love affair with alcohol can start to get rocky. We might find ourselves in a situation where we’re relying on alcohol to make us feel at ease, to release stress, or to socialize with others. And that's where problems can start to creep in.

The main problem is that over time, we start to build a tolerance to alcohol — we need more alcohol to experience the same euphoric effect. When we drink regularly, our brain dials down our natural baseline levels of neurotransmitters (such as dopamine) to stay in balance. As a result, we need more and more alcohol to achieve the same effect — and that effect continues to weaken, getting further out of reach. With heavy use, the feeling of pleasure becomes all but imperceptible, and we find ourselves drinking just to feel “normal.” 

Liquid Courage in a Glass

It's not just the biological factor that entices us towards alcohol — there's also a strong social aspect at play.

Humans are social creatures: we generally love gatherings and parties, and alcohol often plays a starring role. Why? Drinking can help us relax and lower our guard, making interactions with others feel smoother and easier.

However, leaning on alcohol as a social lubricant can be a slippery slope. It's like any other shortcut that seems to deliver results without the work necessary to make them sustainable in the long term — it may feel fantastic in the moment, but it can leave you feeling less than stellar later.

Breaking Free From Alcohol's Allure

So, you've heard the ups and downs of the alcohol story. Now you might be thinking about changing the script. Whether it's cutting back on your alcohol intake or quitting altogether, here are some steps to help:

  • Mindful drinking. Try to be mindful about when and why you're drinking. Are you reaching for a glass out of habit, stress, or social pressure? Recognizing these triggers can be the first step towards change.
  • Alternative drinks. Stock your fridge with non-alcoholic alternatives. Herbal teas, sparkling water, or non-alcoholic beers can be your new go-to beverages. They’re different, but potentially exciting and rewarding!
  • Find new relaxation strategies. If you use alcohol to relax, try other soothing habits. Yoga, meditation, reading, or a walk in the park can become your new "happy hour."
  • Stay social, sans alcohol. Don't let go of your social life. Instead, suggest activities that don't center around alcohol. Try a movie night, a hiking trip, or a cooking class. Who knows, you might end up creating even more memorable moments!

The journey towards change has its share of ups and downs. But with determination and the right strategies, you can definitely create a happy ending. Remember, the goal isn't just to survive but to thrive. So here's to a healthier, happier you!

Ready for a Break From Booze?

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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