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Alcohol and Stress

The term “stress” is often used to describe feelings of pressure or tension. Both the perception of what is stressful and the physiological response to stress vary considerably among individuals. These differences are based on genetic factors and environmental influences that can be traced back through life.

Whether a person will drink in response to stress depends on many factors. These include possible genetic determinants of drinking in response to stress, someone’s usual drinking behavior, their expectations regarding the effect of alcohol upon stress, the intensity and type of stressor, the person’s sense of control over the stressor, the range of one’s responses to cope with the perceived stress, and the availability of social support to buffer the effects of stress.

Studies indicate that many people drink as a means of coping with work stress, financial stress, relationship stress, in absence of social support – and that the more severe and chronic the stressor, the heavier the drinking.

Does drinking reduce or induce stress?

Individuals may drink to relieve stress. But drinking alcohol also produces physiological stress, that is, some of the body’s responses to alcohol are similar to its responses to other stressors. Research has shown that alcohol actually causes stress by stimulating hormone release by the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. Chronic exposure to alcohol also raises adrenaline levels.

There hasn’t yet been established a definite clear association between stress, drinking behavior, and the development of alcoholism in humans.

In the established alcoholic, there appears to be a clearer connection between stress and relapse: among abstinent alcoholics, personally threatening, severe, and chronic life stressors may lead to relapse.

Although many factors can influence a return to drinking, stress may exert its greatest influence on the initial consumption of alcohol after a period of abstinence.

Alcohol in the Workplace

Alcohol and other drug-related harm in the workplace includes fatalities, injuries and reduced productivity. It also includes potential adverse impact on workplace culture, morale and the health and welfare of the workforce.

The hospitality, construction and financial services industries are most likely to have people working while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Researchers used data from the 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS), which polled over 23,000 Australian residents aged 12 and over on their use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. 

Close to nine per cent of workers surveyed usually drank alcohol at work, and 0.9 per cent  usually used drugs at work. Being under the influence of alcohol at work (5.6 per cent) was more common that working under the influence of other drugs (2.0 per cent), the research found.

The survey also revealed that a substantial portion of workers who use alcohol or drugs at work appear to underestimate their negative affect on workplace safety.



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