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Abusing Alcohol More Likely with Stress

Abusing Alcohol and Stress and Alcohol - The Bergand Group

If you are struggling with abusing alcohol, then stress may seem to be everywhere. Unfortunately (and perhaps obviously), stress makes drinking all the more dangerous to you and to others in the way it influences your decisions that might otherwise be more rational. Read on to learn how you can navigate these risky waters in order to avoid the consequences of combining stress and alcohol.

Stress Levels Impact Likelihood of Abusing Alcohol

Whether you are working to recover from an addiction to alcohol or are a casual drinker, stressful situations can pose enormous risks. “If you drink alcohol when you’re stressed, you may be flipping a brain switch that makes heavier drinking all the more likely.” It’s no secret that your brain is influenced by alcohol, but just how far does that influence extend when stress and alcohol are both present?

The answer, according to a recent study performed on lab rats, is fairly far. The animals were provided with their version of an ‘open bar’ and were then subjected to a high level of stress for an hour. Afterward, the researchers found that they had high levels of the ‘drink’ in their systems, and not only that, but they continued to imbibe for “weeks after the original exposure to stress.” The comparisons to be drawn between the rodents’ behavior and the likely effect on humans are easy to make.

It’s true that there are a number of differences between people and rats, but the minds behind the experiment stressed that the “brain chemistry involved is surprisingly similar.” The bottom line is that the more stress is present, the bigger the effect of drinking alcohol will be and the more likely the occasion will involve abusing alcohol to some degree. At the very least, we can assume there is a high probability of this same thing happening in humans and thus there should be a takeaway that is considered where stress and alcohol are both present.

The biggest danger, perhaps, is that the effects of stress reduce the ‘reward’ within the brain that is received when drinking. That is, the normal level (for example, a single drink) does not have the same feeling as ‘usual,’ or in low-stress scenarios. As a result, the person may feel compelled to drink more to chase that reward, or simply because they are feeling stressed out. Since the change within the experiment’s rats was large enough to be noticeable, it can be hypothesized that, in humans, it will be just as significant… or even more so.

There is good news within this experiment and its conclusions. Those who have been abusing alcohol as a result of high levels of stress aren’t stuck in a permanently-increased cycle of being driven to more and more drinks. Within the experiment, “the researchers gave the rats a chemical to restore the altered neural circuitry to its pre-stress condition, and it worked.” If they were able to alter the rodents’ mental state to reverse the damage that stress and alcohol (or, the rats’ version of alcohol) had done, then the same can likely be carried out for people who are struggling.

It’s unnerving how easily our brains’ reward centers can apparently be altered, but knowing that those changes can be reversed is encouraging. If you are trying to end a habit of abusing alcohol, then contact The Bergand Group. We offer recovery programs for yourself or for others or are seeking education materials about addictions. The Bergand Group is Maryland’s leading addiction recovery center and offers support for those struggling with addiction and mental health issues, including direction for those who may be denying an addiction.  We can help you to work through your addiction in a safe and healthy environment where everyone is committed to your care.

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About The Bergand Group:

At The Bergand Group in Baltimore and Harford County, Maryland, our therapists have more than twenty years of experience in the mental health and addiction fields. Our focus is on providing comprehensive mental health care and appropriate care for addictive disorders. We offer both alcohol rehab and drug rehabilitation. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or substance addiction, there is help available. We also offer several other services, including family therapy and counseling. We can help. Contact us today.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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