Humans have had a long history with taking mind-altering substances. Peyote is one of the most famous and oldest known drugs used by the Aztecs and Native Americans.
Similarly, there is heroin which was used as a medicine until the early 1920s; LSD was popularly used as a recreational drug in the ’60s, marijuana in the ’70s and then came the cocaine epidemic of the ’80s.
In all this, alcohol and tobacco are the two drugs that are legal for use. However, the issue here is not about arguing which drug is good or bad for you. The question is, why have drugs, especially alcohol, become such a normal part of our lives? Why do we even consume these substances? When do we need to stop and make an informed decision about it?
According to Psychology Today, alcohol increases the levels of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter responsible for arousal in the body. This means the brain is likely to make impulsive decisions and hence, seeks pleasure without considering the consequences.
At the same time, alcohol is also linked with the release of dopamine, making us feel better.
This answers the question of why we consume alcohol, but at the same time makes me wonder if we are all just puppets to chemicals in our brain.
Maybe I am getting a bit too philosophical here but bear with me.
The reason we eat food is to keep our body running. Also, it appeals to a part of us that wants to enrich our lives by allowing ourselves to experience the different tastes food gives us. It would be boring if there were just one flavor of ice-cream to choose from in the Dining Hall, wouldn’t it?
Alcohol and other mind-altering substances appeal to the same part of us.
“For some students, it can be a part of developing themselves as a person,” said Kimbrlei McCain, coordinator of Outreach. “But for some I think, a lot of times maybe they don’t know how to use it responsibly or they are pressured into situations and have not considered what they are doing.”
“Here in Troy and just by looking at some advertisements, there is a culture that supports binge drinking,” McCain added. “There are drinking games like beer pong tournaments. It’s OK to go have a few drinks socially, but sometimes the message is not that consistent with the community.”
Gus McKenzie, a senior communication major from Monroeville and president of the Student Government Association, agrees that it is a social thing.
“It is one of those things, if you go looking for it, you can find it, but also if you want to avoid it, it is easily avoided,” McKenzie said.
So yes, drinking as a way to enjoy and enrich our lives socially depends on how we do it. Some people are more likely to have substance abuse problems and consuming alcohol can further exacerbate their existing mental issues.
However, it is a matter of destressing, as well. I know many moms who like to have a glass of wine at the end of the day. I also know many dads who like to have a beer to unwind.
Maybe just like food brings people together, a night out with your friends at a club is the way to do it. Some people like exercising or going out for a hike. A few drinks with your friends just adds to the list of activities you can participate in to destress about life.
What it needs is moderation. Having fun or relaxing can mean being able to drink without getting a hangover. Above all, though, drink responsibly.