Smoking & Alcohol

Smoking & Alcohol

Have you ever thought about why you smoke or drink? Take a few moments to have a think!

Two of the main reasons people usually state they smoke and drink are:


  • Habit or a learned behaviour
  • After a hard day/when they are stressed


These two often interlink! I.e. I saw someone smoke when they were stressed, so then I too did this and it helps; or I once had a drink after a hard day at work, it really helped me to unwind, and now it becomes a bit of a habit, i.e. after a hard day at work I may have a glass or two of wine.

While both of these habits may offer a quick fix, they can both have serious long term consequences.

So… Why do we find drinking alcohol and smoking so helpful?

The science!

Alcohol activates GABA an anti-anxiety system in the brain which is why you feel so much more relaxed after a couple of wines or your favourite tipple! It also boosts serotonin and dopamine so you can feel more socially confident and alert. However, too much alcohol can have the opposite effect, impacting on our speech and emotions (and not in a good way!)

Smoking triggers acetylcholine (an excitatory brain chemical) and dopamine which activates adrenalin- so as a result you feel more alert, motivated and clear-headed. It also activates niacin which supports GABA so you feel less anxious.


These quick fixes come with potentially life-threatening price tags. What we need to do is ensure that we have methods to emotionally-refuel which are not bad for your physical or mental health.

There are two ways of refuelling which may help to stabilize stress chemicals in the brain:

Auto-regulation- Doing something by yourself to change your brain chemistry (i.e. read a book; going for a walk; relaxing in a bath).

Interactive regulation- Spending quality time with other people, such as your partner or friends.


For more healthy options visit our previous sections, coping with negative impacts of stress & ways to further protect against stress – LINK