This Is Why It's So Hard To Stop Drinking Alcohol After Just One
Why is it so hard to have just one drink at the pub?
Why is it that going out for “just one” almost always seems to escalate? You can have all the best intentions but still end up spending three times as much as planned, and being horribly hungover the next day.
And it’s not just you – turns out, we’re all equally susceptible to alcohol’s sneaky little traps.
Professor David Nutt, chair of the independent body Drug Science, told The Guardian, that it all comes down to your dopamine.
Yep, that pesky feel-good hormone which pushes you into action (like ordering another round) because it feels nice.
He explained that dopamine makes alcohol feel “moreish”.
“You get a little hit, you get energised, you get loud, and as the effect starts to diminish, you want more,” Professor Nutt continued. “Alcohol releases endorphins, which are the brain’s natural opiates – and they’re also addictive, turning off your sense of control so you drink more than you planned to.”
The booze affects the front of your brain (prefrontal cortex) which controls your cognition, impulse behaviour and memory – so your judgement and movement gradually get affected the more you drink.
But, while your brain is tricking you into thinking you’re having the best time, your body can’t keep up.
Your liver can only break down a small glass of wine or a pint of beer per hour, nutritionist Hannah Macey also told The Guardian, so it send alcohol to the heart.
That then decreases your blood pressure, and the alcohol-laced blood goes to the lung, and it is released when you exhale, which is why it’s possible to smell alcohol on someone’s breath.
Meanwhile, your kidneys are releasing more water and dehydrating you because booze limits the production of the antidiuretic hormone.
So why do we keep doing it?
Nutt suggested that it’s the expectation of pleasure, or relaxation, that keeps bringing us back to booze.
He said that people “come to associate the smell and taste of their favourite drinks with the effect in the brain and the pleasure that’s coming.”
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to try and stop yourself from having more than you should.
Harvard University suggests giving yourself a limit on how much you drink before you go out and putting your goal in writing to consolidate it.
Try to keep a diary of your drinking for a few weeks so you can really get a handle of what you’re drinking and when. The university also encourages people to have some completely alcohol-free days.
And drink slowly – some suggest waiting 20-minutes between ordering drinks to try and curtail the habit.
Help and support:
If you need help with a drinking problem, call the Alcoholics Anonymous national helpline for free on 0800 9177 650 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For advice on how to reduce drinking, visit Drinkaware’s website or Alcohol Change UK.
Find alcohol addiction services near you using this NHS tool.