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Rethink your reasons for GETTING DRUNK and help cut down consumption

Psychologists have identified a number of instances that set off our desire for a tipple or three. Chief among them is habit; social convention has told us for long enough that a quick drink is the best way to unwind after a long day.

Often we drink out of loneliness or boredom. We think of alcohol as something that's sociable and celebratory, and drinking on our own means that . . . well, at least you're doing something with your evening (even if it's just sitting in, watching Law & Order and wearing Uggs, getting sloshed).

However, most Irish women and men will readily attest that the most common alcohol trigger is stress or pressure. Who can argue that the warm, fuzzy feeling after a couple of glasses of wine seems able to cure any number of ills and anxieties?

Of course, the fatal error we make is to chase this warm and fuzzy buzz, resulting in four or five glasses down the hatch.

Yet, here's the thing: that warm feeling of your problems or inhibitions melting away? It's a short-term fix. Alcohol is by its very nature a depressant, hence those feelings of melancholia after a night out.


As for that idea that you're socially lubricated, or that you're much more fun with a few drinks? All in your head, according to anthropologist Anne Fox.

"Only in cultures where alcohol is believed to be a 'disinhibitor' do people act in a disinhibited manner when drunk," Fox says. "Even when deeply intoxicated, people can control their behaviour if they have an incentive to do so."

Though we may be into adulthood and have left the playground behind us, good old-fashioned peer pressure is still a common trigger in Ireland. It's a curious phenomenon; some people feel they might be 'judged' by someone in their company who is sober (a total fable, according to my teetotal friends). No one wants to appear stingy, hence the 'ah, of course you'll have one' rigmarole at the bar. Once people start getting into rounds, no one wants to be labelled a round-shirker. And so it goes.

"Being aware of why you want to drink in a more responsible way will help you ignore social pressure," says Fionnuala Sheehan of Drink Aware (wwww.drink aware.ie). "Simple tips like avoiding rounds will help you drink at a pace that suits you, rather than the pace of the fastest drinker in your 'round'.

"There is now a greater understanding that people have less cash and that getting involved in a round is something that not everyone can afford.


"It helps if alcohol is not the sole activity in an evening's socialising. Think about incorporating other activities or entertainment options -- including a meal and interspersing water/soft drinks when your socialising includes alcohol helps you to better manage the pace of your drinking."

So far, so okay . . . until you realise that a distinct pattern of dependency arises.

"The dangers start to arise if you find yourself drinking on your own," notes Fionnuala.

"It's something to be mindful of. Dependency can happen over a period of time. You'll then find that it takes a greater amount of alcohol to achieve the same effect."

"Being aware of your drinking triggers will help you stay more in control," she adds. "If you feel you need to change your drinking habits, knowing the reason behind this change will also help you stick to healthier habits.

"Perhaps you want to lose weight, maybe alcohol is affecting your relationships, maybe you are drinking more than you thought, or maybe you are more aware of the recommended drinking guidelines."

Tanya Sweeney