Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Psychological Consequences of Alcohol

Consuming alcohol is something so engrained in American culture and many other cultures that it is almost synonymous with hanging out with friends, watching sports, or enjoying an evening. It is the default decision for what to do on a Friday night for millions of people. Let's examine why this is, and more importantly, why does it seem so impossible for people to do without something which is known to be so harmful to one's health.

Alcohol has been called "liquid courage"; it is a substance which can make people more relaxed, more social, and more outgoing. What is the psychological block though that does not allow people to be this way without it? Perhaps it is a result of the link between fear and maturity. This basically says that as people become older, they lose their hopes and dreams as hundreds of factors such as making money, becoming popular, finding mates, and simply wanting to fit in become important. As a little kid, we all thought we could do anything and be anyone. Little kids talk to everyone they meet and seem to be the most social creatures on the planet. We smile and enjoy this behavior from children but why not from the adult who likes to interact with everyone. Why is it that so many times I interact with someone I have never met, they seem to, at least initially, wonder why the hell I would be talking to them? Surely, they must have lost something from when they were a child. Alcohol is the "cure" for this behavior. When people are drinking, they seem to be more social, more outgoing, and more accepting of new people. Alcohol is a lot of fun, right? So what is wrong with this?

Alcohol is often used as a crutch for someone to be social. It can be an excuse for lacking real personality and real social skills. It can be very fun with friends, making your emotions more intense, for the better or for the worse, but the long term effects of this may be that you desire alcohol more often and lose the ability to have fun sober. I am speculating that while the short term effects of drinking alcohol may be great in terms of the fun you had with friends or random strangers, the long term costs of losing the ability to have sober fun may not be worth it. Alcohol is a way to escape reality, a way to make almost any situation fun, but shouldn't we have the ability to do this through the power of our own mind and personality? In fact, why would we want to escape reality to begin with? Life is so interesting; there is always more to learn and new people to meet. If our normal life is something we need to escape, well then shouldn't we change our normal life? So next time you are faced with the decision of whether to drink, examine your motivations, recognize the psychological consequences, and then decide on whether it is worth it or not. You may find that it is worth it less than you think, which will put you on the road to have a more powerful and engaging personality.


nhien said...

Alcoholic beverages offer a variety of taste, much different to other beverages. So even if one drinks without the motivation to get drunk or change one's personality, but instead for lifestyle variation then is it so wrong to drink?

mspice said...

It is never really "wrong" to drink. Sometimes I think drinking to change your personality or experience of a situation is even appropriate. Furthermore, I occasionally drink a beer cause I really enjoy the taste. Although, I am such a light weight that it often results in a slight buzz!