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Stress and Alcohol: It’s Complicated

Alcohol can change the way the body deals with stress—and not for the better.

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Drinking might just make it worse.
Photo via thinkstockphotos

By Dirk Hanson

07/18/11

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When people are stressed, they drink more—or that’s the conventional wisdom, at least. But researchers at the University of Chicago have demonstrated that it’s a two-way street: "Alcohol can change the way that the body deals with stress: it can decrease the hormone cortisol which the body releases to respond to stress, and it can prolong the feelings of tension produced by the stress," says study author Emma Childs. “Stress can also change how alcohol makes a person feel: it can reduce the pleasant effects of alcohol or increase craving for more alcohol." Results will be published in the October 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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