Expectations and Alcohol: The Fun May Be in Your Head

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Woman celebrating at a party

Some common reasons people give for why they drink alcohol in social situations include:

  • I feel more outgoing.
  • It loosens me up.
  • I have more fun.

Lots of factors play into people’s expectations of alcohol’s supposed power to make them more social—from advertising to teen party movies, the alcohol industry has a lot to gain from making people believe positive things about alcohol.

In fact, research shows that a person’s expectations of how they will feel after drinking alcohol may have more to do with their experience, and how much fun they have, than the alcohol itself. Although alcohol does create an initial “buzz,” it also slows a person down and makes them feel tired.

A recent study looked at college students’ expectations about alcohol and how those expectations influenced how much the students drank. Part of the experiment involved giving some students alcoholic drinks and others non-alcoholic drinks. Neither group knew which type they received. In the end, students had a hard time identifying whether they were drinking alcohol or not.

And guess what? Those who consumed non-alcoholic drinks had just as much fun as the ones who consumed alcohol.

This means that if you go out expecting to feel social and outgoing, you likely will feel that way, regardless of whether you drink alcohol—or not.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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