On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade. It’s hard to say for sure what the full fallout of this decision will be, as people are starting to come to terms with what has happened and what could follow. Just a few hours after the decision, young women in Washington D.C were already up in protest. One of the ways people cope with stressful events is drinking. Which begs the question, how has this event impacted the consumption of alcohol in the US? That’s what we’ll discuss today.
In this article, we’ll talk about the recent decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, how these events affect alcohol consumption, and the links between alcohol and stress.
Roe V. Wade Overturned
Due to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, many people are experiencing stress and anxiety. Pro-choice activists flooded Washington Square Park in New York just hours after the New York court confirmed the previously leaked ruling, effectively banning abortion throughout half of the country.
Experts say the court’s decision will significantly impact people’s mental health.
Those who live in states that restrict abortion access, such as Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Alabama, are faced with the newfound stress of worrying about what to do about an unwanted pregnancy.
In addition, pregnant women who feel compelled to carry pregnancies resulting from rape, incest, or abusive relationships experience additional anxieties. There is a ripple effect of depression from parent to a newborn child, both psychologically and physiologically.
When people are under this much stress, they need a way to decompress; for many, alcohol is often their go-to.
Alcohol Consumption During Times of Social Stress
Studies have shown that acute stress can increase the consumption of alcohol for social drinkers. Furthermore, general life stressors are more likely to affect the drinking of people with Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD).
Teenagers, particularly, are more prone to alcohol consumption-related problems due to social stress. A study found that teenage girls, in particular, were more likely to engage in alcohol consumption due to higher levels of social anxiety.
This same study also found that early alcohol use initiation can often lead to problems in adulthood, particularly for young women.
So, we’ve already established that people are more likely to drink when stressed and that social stress, in particular, is a huge trigger. If you combine these factors with a change as dramatic as the overturning of Roe V. Wade, it’s not hard to see how this would lead to people drinking more, particularly women and especially those in states where this has been more impactful.
However, we can’t say for sure what’s going to happen. Years later, studies will reveal exactly how this single event will impact the drinking habits of Americans, for better or worse.
The Link Between Alcohol and Stress
Alcohol can indeed reduce stress in some cases. Alcohol acts as a sedative and a depressant on the central nervous system.
Alcohol has effects on the nervous system that are comparable to anti-anxiety meds. You will feel less shy, your mood will be lifted, and you will feel generally relaxed after using it. Drinking can reduce fears and take your mind off your troubles at first.
However, even during times like these, turning to alcohol is not the best way to deal with the situation. It’s not a crime to have a drink, and in moderation and with friends having a drink or two is great. The problem comes when we start drinking continuously to manage stress. Not only does this prevent us from developing more healthy stress coping mechanisms, but it also worsens our stress in the long term. Furthermore, studies have shown that alcohol can compound the effects of stress.
Alcohol affects our brain’s chemistry, producing higher cortisol levels, also known as the stress hormone. This hormonal imbalance can make you more anxious when stress enters the equation.
For better or worse, stress is something we must learn to handle, especially given the uncertain circumstances of our time.
But how can we do that? Well, you can try adopting these coping strategies:
- Meditate: When you meditate, you can increase your focus and help push away the thoughts that cause you stress. Taking five minutes to meditate a few days per week can do wonders for you.
- Exercise: Exercise can improve your mood, help you relax, and even lower symptoms of depression. It’s as close to a miraculous stress cure as it gets. Exercise is also a great way to help your body avoid hangovers.
- Listen to music: If you are feeling down, listening to your favorite tracks can do you good.
- Hang out with your friends: Hanging out with your friends can be an excellent way to unwind. If you go out, use a mindful drinking app to keep track of your drinks and not overdo it. Even if you decide to have a few drinks with them, friends can help keep you accountable to ensure you don’t overdo it.
We know these might sound mundane given the issue’s magnitude, but you’d be surprised at how effective these techniques can be. You could even combine the techniques above or try something completely different. What’s important is that you find something healthy that works for you.
If you are having a hard time with stress, given the uncertainty we live in, you are not alone. What’s important is that you learn to handle that stress in healthy and productive ways. Having a drink occasionally isn’t an issue, but you shouldn’t turn to alcohol to cope with stress as that will only lead to more stress. Remember that you are not alone. Seek support from friends and family and give yourself a break. And if you do go out drinking, do yourself a favor and use a binge drinking app to help you stay on the right path.