Behavioral Interactions Between Stress and Alcohol

Behavioral Interactions Between Stress and Alcohol

Some people drink alcohol for stress relief, but alcohol can actually activate stress systems in the brain, acting as a stressor itself. Research reveals that stress has an effect on alcohol drinking and that alcohol interacts with biological stress systems. An examination of findings from animal models suggest that brain stress systems may be useful targets for medications development for alcohol use disorder (AUD) and co-occurring stress-related disorders in humans.

A review of the research published in The Journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism from Alcohol Research: Current Reviews. In this article, both the effects of stress on alcohol drinking and and how alcohol interacts with biological stress systems are examined.

Highlights include:
Alcohol may activate some brain stress systems and may be considered a stressor itself.

Stress induced stimulation was consistently shown to reinstate drug seeking, not just for alcohol, but also for cocaine and nicotine.

Chronic exposure to high doses of alcohol (which is an animal model of alcohol dependence) increases stress reactivity during withdrawal.

There is not enough data for stress-induced alcohol drinking related behaviors such as anxiety at this time.