Gin Makes You Cry, Bubbly Makes You Flirt, Tequila Makes You Violent: Alcohol Myths?

In "Exploding the myths about alcohol," Nicola Shepheard of The New Zealand Herald writes:

Gin makes you cry, bubbly makes you flirt, tequila makes you violent.

Despite common lore, there's no evidence that different kinds of alcohol elicit different moods. Intriguingly, there's evidence our expectations heavily influence how alcohol transforms us. Psychologist Alan Marlatt set up a fake bar at the University of Washington, plied volunteer students with either real alcoholic drinks or taste-identical substitutes, and observed their behaviour. The students who drank a substitute under the impression it was the real thing, felt, and behaved, as if they were really drunk. They were louder, flirting, standing up and feeling dizzy, despite being stone-cold sober.

Says Dr. Simon Adamson, senior lecturer at Otago University's National Addiction Centre, "How people behave when they drink is not simply a result of the pharmacology. Some people will anticipate that they're going to become agro [aggressive] when they drink, and the fact they tend to get into fights at the pub isn't a surprise - that's more than the effects of alcohol."

So it isn't simply a case of "the alcohol made me do it." Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario asked volunteers to press a button when prompted by a computer screen to do so. They were also instructed not to press it if a red light also appeared. Those who were given alcohol were more likely to press the button in spite of the red light, just as a drunk is more likely to punch someone even if told to stop.

However, when drinkers were offered a small reward, they performed as well as sober volunteers. The researchers conclude that people who have been drinking can control their behavior if they want to.

Because alcohol doesn't cause bad behavior it isn't a legitimate excuse for such behavior.

In short, bad behavior isn't the fault of the alcohol but of the person.

 

References:

  • Shepheard, Nicola. Exploding the myths about alcohol. The New Zealand Herald, October 14, 2007.
  • Grattan, K. E., and Vogel-Sprott, M. Neurobiological, behavioral, and environmental relations to drinking - maintaining intentional control of behavior under alcohol, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 2001, 25(2), 192-197.

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