Does Alcohol Reduce Stress?
Everything in Moderation
It’s quite normal to grab a cold one after a long day at work, enjoy a cocktail out with friends, and have a glass of wine with dinner. In fact, alcohol is known to relieve stress when consumed in limited amounts. It helps you feel closer to your friends, pay attention to the moment, lift your mood, and even put your worries into context.1
However, when a person drinks more and more in an effort to feel those stress-relieving affects, a downward spiral begins as alcohol consumed in large quantities on a regular basis has the ability to ruin your mind, your body, and your life.1 Other than enjoying just one or two every once in a while to blow off some steam and kick back, alcohol actually makes stress worse.1 It’s a vicious cycle, as this leads to more drinking, and eventually, alcoholism.1
University of Missouri psychology professor Kenneth Sher states that lower levels of intoxication (a blood alcohol level of 0.04 or less) can be a pleasant experience.1 It enhances your social experience, creating a bonding experience with friends, which is a social benefit.1 However, when it goes beyond just that, it’s a benefit no longer.1 Instead, it’s an enemy.
To the Extreme, Alcohol is Dangerous
Yes, being drunk really relaxes your body, but to an extreme extent.1 Although in that state, you might be thinking “Stress-who?” you are causing more harm than good.1 You begin to look forward to drinking to relieve your stress on a regular basis.1 You use it as an escape. At this point, you are basically depending upon it to deal with life’s stressors, be they little or big.1 Psychologically, you can’t keep it together without having a drink, and your liver isn’t thanking you.
Individuals with anxiety and depression are at a high risk of developing alcohol dependency, as the substance does have mood-enhancing and anti-anxiety properties.1 According to Sher, the generation heading into their 30s are using stimulants to study, and alcohol and marijuana to have fun.1 This pattern of relying on substances to get through life is not healthy.1
Know the Signals for Abuse
Once you begin to rely on alcohol to relieve stress, you are in big trouble.1 You’re already obviously stressed out at the baseline level, and your dependency only worsens it.1 You struggle at work, you feel withdrawal symptoms, and your relationships are compromised. So, you drink more to cope with the situations it brings.1
Pay attention to the signals. If you’re upset that you can’t get your hands on a drink, there’s a problem.1 Look into other ways to reduce stress, such as relaxation techniques, meditation, picking up a hobby, etc.1 Don’t let alcohol’s relaxing properties blind you from the truth. If you can’t be happy with moderation, don’t drink.1
 Barnett, B. (2013, September 24). Does drinking reduce my stress?. CNN.com. Retrieved September 26, 2013, from http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/24/health/drinking-reduces-stress-upwave/index.html?hpt=he_c2