25 Jan Why Do We Drink?
Humans have been drinking alcohol for the last 10,000 years. Mesopotamians invented beer as soon as they had more grain than they needed for food. Drinking alcoholic beverages is an important part of our social interactions and there are very few cultures where alcohol consumption is not part of socializing. But, there is a very fine line between social drinking and alcoholism. Alcohol abuse changes brain chemistry and structure, erodes almost every organ in the body, destroys a person’s family, work and social life and often kills. Recognizing when our afternoon cocktails or wine with a good meal turn into an addiction that is destroying us is very difficult. There are 140 million people with alcoholism worldwide and millions of others who do not consider themselves alcoholics and do not look for treatment. Our children start drinking very early because we are sending them a wrong message with our own behavior. We know how to treat alcoholism and alcoholics can recover from their addiction and return to normal life. The problem is admitting that there is a problem, on a personal level and as a society.
So why do we really drink?
Almost all of us drink alcohol occasionally. To be accurate, about 85 percent of Americans admitted to drinking from time to time. We drink to relax and unwind after work, to be social, since all our friends drink, because we enjoy the taste or to ‘dull the edge’ of stress and anxiety. It is a big part of our, and many other, cultures. But, beneath the surface, there are some other reasons that compel us to reach for the glass:
- When we drink, we feel closer to certain circle of people we admire;
- Alcohol is our way to manage difficult times;
- We drink when we are lonely, angry or sad;
- We just cannot stop
Sometimes, we just have a glass or two. But, it can quickly go out of hand, especially if we are used to dealing with problems with the help of alcohol: bad relationships, difficult work situations, difficulty in managing strong emotions and often very low self-esteem. But, instead of helping with these problems, alcohol becomes one more problem.
It is understandable why alcohol helps when we feel under stress. It is a depressant. It slows down the brain and the processes of our central nervous system. Alcohol helps with stress in the short term, but in the long term it actually increases anxiety and causes depression, making stress worse. In addition, over time, alcohol interferes with the neurotransmitters in the brain, affecting reasoning and general mental health. You can get help or learn more about alcohol abuse.