Why do people drink alcohol?

People drink alcohol for two reasons: taste or effect. But alcoholic people drink alcohol for different reasons. We explore the question, “Why do people drink alcohol?” here. Learn more about the effects drinking alcohol and the characteristics of alcoholic drinking here.

minute read

People drink alcohol for taste

Alcohol is a natural product that is created when fruits, vegetables or grain are left to ferment. When these foods go through the process of fermentation, yeast or bacteria are added to change the sugars into alcohol. Some people drink alcohol because they enjoy the taste and the result of fermentation, and as an accompaniment to meals.

People drink alcohol for effect

More commonly, people drink alcohol to experience the effects it produces. When you drink, alcohol is absorbed by the bloodstream and affects the brain and spinal cord. Because alcohol is a depressant, the functions of the central nervous system slow down. Furthermore, alcohol can block messages from the body to the brain. Effects of drinking alcohol include:

  • altered perception
  • altered emotions
  • altered movement
  • altered vision
  • altered hearing
  • intoxication

Why do alcoholics drink alcohol?

Some people who start off drinking and enjoy the effects of alcohol can become addicted to it. We call these people alcoholics. Alcoholics become physically and psychologically addicted to alcohol and need to drink in order to feel “normal”. Alcoholism is identified by the following four characteristics:

  1. A mental obsession with drinking alcohol.
  2. A physical craving for drinking alcohol, activated when drinking begins.
  3. A loss of control when drinking alcohol.
  4. Continued drinking, despite negative consequences.


If you are drinking to numb emotional pain (fear or anger) or if you cannot stop drinking, alcohol may be a problem in your life. But what should you do if someone you love has a drinking problem? Here are some alcohol intervention strategies. Or post your comment below. We’ll be happy to help you.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. I love someone and he has a drinking problem because of some past issues. I tried my best my he still drinks everyday I really need your help please tell me what can i do for him . I can’t see him like this

  2. I’m a Filipina 31 years of age. I had a really bad experience of a functional alcoholic, he is a white guy actually, he is living and enjoying in our country. He love his freedom in my country. Easy access for girls and booze. I said to myself, I couldn’t stay more longer than this. I find it really hard to deal with an alcoholic. It’s a shame because we have a gorgeous son. He is now 1 year and 4 months. The father seems very selfish. He doesn’t have much time for us, but he has time with his drinking buddies. He always find ways to get out the house and drink. I did noticed that alcoholic are also the No.1 liar in the whole world. When he drink, he think he is a Brad Pitt, he think he is handsome, he is full of confident that he could take any girls number if he had a chance. And he spent most of his money in the bars, and hardly buy groceries for us, if ever he buy, he gets angry first. When he is sober he blame me with his expensive expenses, because I don’t work and I don’t share the living expenses. But how may I be able to work when I’m looking after a tiny baby. And at the same time I do all the work inside the house. I feel like I was only his slave with no salary at all, but free food yes. And in the Philippines if I work, the money I get if I will do a part time job it’s only his 1 night spending in the bars. I don’t mind working, but I am enjoying making a strong bond with my little one. So I just ignore him, and he carry on drinking and meeting different girls to give a company. His reason was because he is bored, and I’m too boring for him. He didn’t think that we have a little one. All he wants is fun fun and fun. Since I cannot give accompany him to have some fun every night. I reach the point that I have to leave him. And he realized that he want me back. I just laugh haha 🙂 Simply because he find it hard now to stay alone, nobody is cooking his favorite soup. Nobody will clean his place. Nobody will wash his clothes. He is very untidy too. I always follow his messed. Now he realized that I’m actually worth it. And I never wish to go back with him. He is not worth it. He is taking me for granted. Its better I will just deal my son only. Now that my son can start walking, I can now focus on finding a source of income. I don’t need an asshole in my life. My advise here. Never never never date or deal with an alcoholic. If you see a red flag, please back off while its early. Always get angry. Mood swing. Keep changing plans and denial. I can’t keep up with that kind of a life. They’re the TOXIC kind of a creature.

  3. Need help!!This is regarding a very close friend of mine he has a alcohol issue,he has had lots of emotional setbacks poses to be a very happy person, says he is happy but somewhere I feel he is not ,doesn’t want to talk about it..Please show me the way how can I help him..Will be grateful if I find some way ..Monica

    1. Hi Monica. Call a toll-free Alcohol Helpline on 1-888-675-1820 to find a high-quality alcohol addiction treatment program. This helpline is accessible 24/7 and gives you the chance to speak with trusted treatment consultants who can help you find an alcohol recovery program suited to your friend’s individual needs.

  4. I’ve been drinking most of my life I’ve always been quiet at school with family…everything until I got out in the world myself but even before this I’ve drank and it’s the only thing that’d really get me out there socially but then it just went on an on I had fun…bunch of duis but now I’ll be 50 within the next 15 years and I’ve never did anything to move my life ahead an now don’t know how to and cant figure out where to start but still drink just not much…but for me to do anything….I haft to drink or else I’ll just sit where I sit and do nothing but watch tv and depressed to why I don’t wanna hangout with ppl that think I’m cool but only when I’m on alcohol. I’m 35 can I actually change. I’m trying but fig. I’d see what was said here

  5. 26 years old and drinking heavy for past 7 years. First started as just weekend fun with friends didn’t normally get wasted. When I turned 21 that all changed I began to frequent the night life whenever I could, I loved the bars, the atmosphere everything. Eventually I began to notice I couldn’t wait to drink end up going to the bar spending 200 bucks on drinks for myself alone (not saying that to sound cool I’m not proud of my choices at all). I made an a$$ of myself more times than I can remember. My drinking on the weekends eventually evolved into an every night thing. It’s a very long story of disappointment and near death (I fell asleep on my back puked and didn’t give a crap luckily somehow I didn’t “drown”, driving while intoxicated the absolute f’ing worst thing thank the good Lord I didn’t hurt anyone.). I have now gotten a better grip after 6 years but it is a constant battle, I haven’t gotten drunk off whiskey for a month, since now it makes me very angry when I do get drunk off of it anymore. I still drink beer 4 or five a night and have been able to stop before getting drunk now, although when my girlfriend is not around I don’t stop and end up getting drunk. Anyway I drink to feel happy to forget about my stress my anger and so forth but there is a very fine line now that if i we’re to not have the strength to stop and only have my 5 beers I will let lose all my anger stress etc out on my girl I am not physical just at times can be mentally abusive to her (I am not proud of this and have gotten a hell of a lot better so please do not mock me or try to give me a life lesson I have learned more in my short existence than I’m sure most have) now to the point I’m trying to make this is a sickness and is not something to take lightly, drink if you want but never try to find the answers to your problems in the bottom of a bottle, all that will ever be there is an empty bottle and nothing more. Alcohol is my weakness don’t let it be yours as well. My strength for getting better comes from the support of my girl and her little boy I don’t want him to be brought about around an alcoholic atmosphere. If I helped you realize you have a problem great, you might want to check yourself if you read all the way through this because your obviously looking for answers, just be strong and find a way to help yourself. Peace and love my friends

  6. I am 31 years old and I drink almost every couple days during the week specially the weekend I have been with my partner for 15 years and he also drinks more then I do. Honestly i never drunk this much until I got with him now I realize that I might be an alcoholic I drink to much and I need to stop for the sake of our daughter but the devil get the best of me and I always end up drunk with hangovers shame on me I don’t know how to stop and I am tierd of alcohol getting the best of me I can not control it what should I do ??

  7. My boyfriend of 2 years drinks a lot or maybe its just that he cant handle his alcohol? He has everything in his life in perfect order, except for drinking, I’m embarrassed when he acts foolish and can hardly walk. I’m pretty sure his memory on the night before is not working. Every now and then he will go on a health kick and not drink. He says this is only to lose weight and look better. During these periods of no alcohol, he makes remarks about himself to me constantly, like how stupid he is when he’s drinking. I totally love this man he pays so much attention to me. cooks cleans. make sure everything of mine is good. But he’s intoxicated nightly and I yearn for a man who can simulate me with conversation. Workout with me. But I know he’s only interested in places alcohol is served. So I go out with him almost 2 or 3 times a week. I usually nurse one and have a couple shots with him. I don’t really get weird drunk from this. I enjoy having a couple drinks and socializing. I don’t have many friends but they both know my man is a drunk but like him a lot anyways. But I have never introduced him to my daughter! She’s 22 and this totally would not fly with her. I’m afraid she would not understand how he could go from smart to dumb. I adore spending time with my daughter. we can be like best friends at times. we share the love of finding bargain’s, working out, eating healthy, laying out. dogs, lots more. So far she doesn’t want to come over to meet him because she is either afraid of her fathers reaction or cant handle it/But I can see the day is getting closer when it will happen. Do I forewarn her? Do I ask him to not drink around her?

  8. I am currently drinking. I am nineteen years old and in the company of my parents, so it’s legal. However, I have no rational reason to be doing so. I do this often, and consider myself a hypocrite. I grew up with an alcoholic mother, and my father drinks beer from noon until midnight almost every day. When younger, I would judge them and say that I would never drink in my lifetime. Now, I drink whenever I can. I enjoy the relaxed feeling of it and find myself able to be more honest and open when I do. My friends are surprised at the amount that I drink. I am five foot tall and under one hundred pounds. I have had on shot of Everclear, a shot of vodka, a shot of tequila, and two glasses of wine in the past two hours. I consider myself to have HAFT (High acute functional tolerance) though I do not know if I truly do. I remain the same mentally after drinking; I am only affected physically. My motor skills slow down, but I maintain my composure well. I do not know why I began drinking, but I am finding that I crave to do so more and more. This is a red flag to me, but I tend to not worry about it and look forward to reaching the age of twenty-one. Is this a concern if I am only doing so in my own home? I do not know if it is a problem and have never received outside input on the matter… Thanks for any responses!

  9. Hi Derrick. Good for you for reaching out. You are not alone! There are literally millions of Americans who have been in your shoes, and have stopped drinking for good. Have you tried A.A. or asking for help from a school guidance counselor? What about a social worker in your area?

  10. hi my is derrick,i am 17 years old and I have been drinking since I was a freshman.i only did it to fit in at first,but then I really liked.after that it got worse I played baseball my first year in highschool and then the next got caught with a bottle of jack that I would drink before p.e and before practice.I got kicked off the baseball team I was gonna make varisty forsure.idk someone help me please.

  11. I have the problem. i tend to over do it with family or situations ocassinlly. But since i am married i project my angry words towards my wife sometimes. i need advise on what to do. i do no alwaysget drunk its seems to be a enviromental response. but i do drink on my own..

  12. The obsession with alcoholism in modern culture speaks volumes – and not about individual alcohol users. There are, obviously, alcoholics – who cannot psychosomatically live a single day without alcohol. Those people are the products of the experience of a soulless existence. Their parents, the people surrounding them, such as teachers, neighbors, and friends, have no divine nature within them. They see life entirely as a material consumerist existence, where there is only “to consume” or “not to consume.”

    There are others, who by modern (1900-today) definitions are considered “alcoholics” simply because they drink a lot of alcohol. They are not, however, alcoholics. They have no driving desire to drink. They do drink, and often a lot, because they enjoy it. They have myriad interests and commitments, not the least of which is that of the love of life and the creative capacity of the human being, which is enhanced by alcohol.

    If one considers the fact that every civilization was producing large quantities of alcohol, that the human brain thrives on pure carbohydrates such as those provided by mildly intoxicating beverages, that mythologies are rife with references to intoxicants, and that “spirits” are the most important substances known to humans through their antibacterial and antimicrobial proprieties, it is inconceivable that humans should exist without access to alcohol.

    I sincerely believe that alcoholism is not the result of a desire for alcohol but the symptom of desire – for meaning, health, and spiritual knowledge.

  13. Hi Allen. Congratulations! How is it going at home? And have you found a support group to help you? Also, how are cravings to drink?

  14. Hi Daniela. It sounds like your instinct and intuition are speaking to you and urging you to leave. This would be healthy for you. Have you sought help through Al-Anon? Or maybe counseling yourself?

    Although your partner, who you love and care about, is the alcoholic, loved ones get wrapped up in addiction, too. This is why they call addiction a “family disease”. Setting boundaries and kicking her out is one way of showing tough love. Otherwise, you are enabling her to continue drinking.

    Does this resonate with you?

  15. @ Daniela,

    You don’t say if you’ve ever attended an Al-anon meeting. I think that would be a very good place for you to start taking care of you. I understand how you feel (my qualifier is my adult child, not my partner though).

    You can’t fix her. You can’t save her. Only she can do that. But you can delay her recovery by enabling.

    I urge you to go to an Al-anon meeting. Go online, you will be able to easily find meetings near you.

    Addiction destroys the addict and their loved ones. It doesn’t have to though. Today I’m praying for you. I’m praying for you to begin recovery from your partner’s disease. Hugs to you.

  16. I am desperate.

    My partner is a raging alcoholic going on 12 years now. Twice she has gone to detox. The first time, she drank the next day after she got out (5 days in detox.) She went directly into an outpatient program and was drunk at first. It’s hard to know whether the effects of the withdrawal meds heightened the alcohol but I suspect so. The second time in detox, the meds weren’t as strong but she began drinking after about 10 days and she ended up in emergency room for a busted chin – having fallen after drinking.

    I don’t always know that she’s drinking until it’s too late. She never tells the truth about how much. What’s frustrating is 30 day treatment centers cost a lot of money and her insurance doesn’t cover inpatient treatment. She’s gone to outpatient. This time a different place that seemed better, more comprehensive. However, the outpatient would not keep her because of alcohol use while in the program. Again, she needs inpatient, but how do people who can’t afford it pay for it???

    On top of this, she’s taking antidepressant and anti-anxiety, as well as Campral. She started taking 2 tabs 3x per day and doctor increased to 3 tabs. Now she appears completely lethargic and her body is shaking. I know we must go to the hospital and I think she can’t take these meds if she’s going to drink. The Campral isn’t working because she won’t stop drinking. Should she quit taking everything?

    This in and out of treatment, doctors, therapists — and she goes to AA and has a sponsor, isn’t helping. Her mind is screwed up. She even drinks after leaving AA. I think I must practice tough love and kick her out of our home. She needs to live on her own. My fear, however, is that she will die for sure. She’s already damaging her liver and slowly killing herself, but she falls down when drunk. No one will be there to help her if she’s on her own and this is why I hesitate. But, I feel it’s time to let her go. The fear is too much.

    What am I going to do????!!

  17. Thank you. I still have a long way to go. Especially were trust comes in. But I know I have too much to lose if I drink again. And that is more than enough to keep me from ever drinking again. My focus is on the ones I love the most. I don’t ever want to be separated from my family again because of the poor choices I made.

  18. Hi Allen. Enjoy the honeymoon. But be sure to do the work. Because when emotional or social or psychological issues come up, your old patterns can as emerge. So, let me know what you think of the counselor, and what kinds of changes you continue to make.


  19. Hi, I’m home again. My wife let me come home last week. My appointment for counseling got pushed back to March 16th because the office had to change appointment. No more drinking! Doing very well. I took up running again and doing well with that also. My wife and I are doing well. My wife is very supportive and we are doing whatever it takes to bring our relationship to a new level. I actually see the things I was doing wrong. Now it’s time man up.

  20. Hi Allen. Are you able to make that decision when the time comes between stopping and continuing drinking? I know that I never did. But if you can consciously decide that you are not going to drink…and then not drink…you are heading towards a sober life!

    How is it going at home and with the counseling?

  21. So far i have been reading alot of material on the internet. Especially why people drink. Stress from work and at home, to unwind and relax seem to be my key points. Surprisingly i’m a Paramedic and know all to well the dangerers of alcohol.Like in my other comment, i don’t drink everyday. I don’t wake up and say,” i need a drink” . And I NEVER drink before or during work. My wife doesn’t really drink. Even at social gatherings if she has a glass of wine it’s never finished. So if i’m with her or she knows i’m going to be where beverages are gonna be i’m closely monitored. if i have 3 or 4 beers in about 2- 21/2 hours she’ll say, i think that’s about enough. This is where i make my bad decisions. I see also we are pressured by the exceptance of alcohol in our society and just being one of the guys drinking while hanging out. Never starting out to drink too much, but again making a bad decision on being responsible and saying: I think i’m done and maybe switch to soda or water.

  22. Hi Allen. Have you tried talking with someone from AA or SMART Recovery? These are two well known self-help groups that offer programs for stopping drinking. They both have websites, and I know that AA has a hotline number. SMART Recovery holds online meetings. You might try to learn more while you are waiting to see a counselor.

    Does this help?

  23. Right now I’m staying with a friend because of my drinking. I have two daughters 11-9. Many time my wife has warned me of my drinking. We’ve been married 15 years. It is only now I realize I have a problem. I am in jeapordy of losing the ones I love because of alcohol. There’s days when I don’t drink. But when I do, I don’t know when enough is enough. I’ve been away from my family for 3days. I have to wait 7 more until my appointment with a counselor. I’m not sure my wife will accept back even then. Word to the wise. Get help before its to late. Or jeapordize losing the ones you love. If I get one more chance from my wife, I will NEVER drink again.

  24. I am married with two teenage sons. My husband drinks daily! 5-9 beers in the evening when he comes home from work. I have asked him to go to rehab, family counselling. Suggested plenty of things, but his choice is to sit and drink the rest of the night away. I have suggested not drinking during the week and only on weekends. He has a bad temper, and can be quite nasty. My youngest son has anxiety, and is scared to be alone with his father. I dont want to live like this anymore, and neither do my children. I must add that this has been a 27 year relationship, and I am not financially stable. So to the people who want to drink and think it is ok, think about what your life will be like. You are not just ruining your life, but you are also ruining the lives of the people who love you the most, your family.

  25. Hi Barbarella. Families of alcoholics or heavy drinkers often ask this question. First of all, good for you. It sounds like you have made a wise decision to distance yourself from your ex-boyfriend.

    The best thing that you can do is to make sure that you are on strong, stable ground. Sometimes this means going to a support group like Al-Anon. Other times it means seeking help from a counselor or trusted mentor. Other people find help via psychotherapy. But the bottom line is that you cannot help him until he is ready to stop. Until then, you must learn coping mechanisms to create boundaries for the way that you relate to the drinker. Because he will either not change, manipulate you into thinking that he has changed when he has not, or he will really want to change.

    Does this help?

  26. I broke up with my boyfriend because of alcohol, drinking for men is normal and I accepted that fact but to drink it everyday is absurd. What should I do to help him? His drinking alcohol to escape from his family problem, I am trying to help him but he don’t want to share it, his kept on telling me “no problem, everything is okay”. I want to help, because I care about him.Hope you could help me…thanks ahead…

  27. I’m 14 years old and I go to school and all I want is alcohol. When I get home I drink the alcohol I have in my bedroom. If I don’t drink I start to woof and the same happens when I’m drunk what do I do never go to school cz I don’t go in much any way. im really having prblems with drinking and its making my intimate bad xxxx. i feel really bad for drinking it hurts me and when i was drunk i was acting like a dog and thats my new name and and thong cz i striped at the pub.

  28. I think that in moderation it is rather a natural biological reaction i.e., there is something in the organism that WANTS alcohol. As such, it is entirely in keeping with and even healthful to the organism. The problem arises when there is an OVERPLUS of the substance. But isn’t that true of so many things?

  29. I am happy with life. I have a wonderful wife, two beautiful little girls and really have nothing to complain about. I have been drinking heavily for many years now. In a day, I can easily drink 6-10 rum and cokes mixed half and half and can still function, although to a lesser degree than if I were sober. I know I drink too much, and I really don’t know why. I have a good life. I wake up, I drink coffee, and when I’m done with coffee, I turn to alcohol and drink all day. What drives me to this? I want it to stop. For me, is it possible to simply cut down, or do I need to stop my drinking altogether?

  30. I was an alcoholic when I was in college. I started drinking only because everyone else was doing it. Then I started waking and going to sleep with a bottle of vodka. I even used to pour vodka in my soda can while i was in class. I didnt stop drinking until I was forced to. I was kicked out of school. Had to come home and come back to reality.

  31. Drinking is bad. I been drinking since I was fifteen. Im now thirty and ive noticed my momery and attention to detail have dramatically been affected. Is this due to my alcohol intake?

  32. Hi Leda. These are all interesting questions that you are asking yourself. It seems that you already have an understanding of the emotional blocks that alcohol can produce, as well as the irrational behaviors. Ultimately, it will be a decision that YOU MAKE (personally) whether or not to abstain from alcohol. Some people know their family history and choose total abstinence, others can partake of alcohol from time to time, and others experiment with alcohol intoxication….and may become addicted to drinking.

    I’d suggest that you discuss this issue further with someone with experience in family addiction so that you can decide what you want to do. It may help to examine the issue in one-on-one therapy sessions. And at the least, talking and verbalizing what is in our heads often helps us understand what we are thinking and what we already know to be true.

  33. My father is an alcoholic and my sister, though not daily, still drinks frequently which makes me prone to alcoholism. I became drunk one night, wasted to be exact, and I either hallucinated or it was actually true that a too-old boy who was tipsy also tried to seduce me. And his fiancée was there, even. I was sad over my last breakup and drank because I knew three things: it would numb the pain, disappoint him, and I was thirsty!
    Should I avoid alcohol forever? How do I know when enough is enough??

  34. yoshi thats just it you think you need it but you dont……it leeds to bad things trust me …if you wouldn do it sober you dont need

  35. Hi, Yoshi. Yes, loss of inhibition is one of the big benefits of drinking. To get the same effects in terms of confidence with girls and social skills without the need for drinking alcohol, I think that it just takes practice. Maybe get a group of friends together and work on this in an alcohol free environment? Is this the kind of advice that you’re looking for?

  36. Some things you should know about me:

    I am 15 years old
    I don’t drink often other than recently
    I love getting drunk

    I don’t know if anyone will read this or not, but when I drink alcohol I feel amazing, it’s like there is no mental block, I can talk to people (especially girls) without fear of myself looking stupid. I can do physical activities MUCH easier and for longer amounts of time with more precision. I don’t know if it’s in my head or what, but for whatever reason when I drink I become the person I want to be when I am sober. I wish so badly that I could do these things when not intoxicated, but I simply cannot. Advice? Please don’t bother telling me about brain development or underage drinking. I know the risks. I accept them, it is worth it for me. Please help me.

  37. Hi Britt. Thanks for your comments! I think that if you are noticing a pattern, just watch out. One characteristic of alcohol is the inability to not drink…having the compulsion to drink. I remember personally the times when alcohol was part of the fun. But after about 5 years, it started getting nasty for me.

  38. I like this blog. Why do alcoholics drink alochol? It seems pretty cut and dry. It makes me think of myself and question if I have a alochol problem. I don’t feel as though a crave it but on the weekends with my freinds I drink to get intoxicated and have a “good” time. I wouldn’t call myself a alcoholic for I don’t crave it or feel like i have to have it to be “normal” but I do drink and get intoxicated and the next morning never feel well. Does this mean I have a alochol problem?

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