Smell of alcohol makes it difficult to resist a drink: Study

Alcohol is usually associated with celebration and enjoyment, but when people are constantly thinking about alcohol or continue to drink despite facing problems, it can be a sign of alcoholism. Sometimes people prefer to stay away from alcohol, but a single drink may gradually lead to two or more.

Taking one drink after the other might be considered an influence of friends or family members. But this can be a wrong assumption as the real reason could be the smell of the alcohol. A recent study, published in the Psychopharmacology journal, revealed that the smell of alcohol has a strong effect on people’s minds that makes it harder to control the resulting disrupted behavior.


The computer-based study by the Edge Hill University, England, required the participants to wear a face mask that was soaked in either an alcoholic or a non-alcoholic drink. The participants were then asked to press a button on seeing letter “K” or the image of an alcoholic drink on the screen.

The researchers measured the number of times the participants pressed the wrong button and raised a false alarm. The false alarms indicated the person’s inability to inhibit behavior, even when demanded by the situation. Most notably, the number of false alarms was significantly higher for the participants who wore alcohol-dipped masks than those who wore masks dipped in non-alcoholic drinks.

The researchers said that the smell may also have something to do with the rate at which one consumes alcohol and exhibits negative behavioral actions such as voluntary intake, tolerance, intoxication and physical dependence.

According to Dr. Rebecca Monk, senior lecturer in Psychology, Edge Hill University, “This research is a first attempt to explore other triggers, such as smell, that may interfere with people’s ability to refrain from a particular behavior. For example, during the experiment it seemed that just the smell of alcohol was making it harder for participants to control their behavior to stop pressing a button”.

Effects of alcohol

Drinking too much at one time or over a period of time can cause health problems and injuries. It interferes with the brain’s communication pathway that can affect parts of the brain that control speech, movement, memory and judgment. These disruptions can alter one’s mood and behavior and lead to common signs of alcoholism, such as difficulty in walking, slurred speech, memory lapses, and impulsive behavior.

The immediate effects of alcohol can be seen 10 minutes after the first sip, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Some of the body organs that are affected by alcohol are:

  • Central nervous system and the brain: An alcohol abuse can take a toll on the central nervous system, interfering with the body’s coordination and balance, as well as the ability to stand erect. A heavy drinker may experience extensive and far-reaching effects on the brain, often leading to long-term impairments.
  • Liver: Alcohol can damage or destroy liver cells, causing irreparable damage to it.
  • Kidney: Excessive alcohol consumption can have many negative effects on the kidneys, impairing their ability to regulate the volume and composition of fluid and electrolytes in the body.
  • Heart: Heavy drinking over a long period of time can increase a person’s risk of stroke. So it’s important to be well-informed about the first-hand experiences and seek an expert’s help to prevent oneself from falling prey to its devastating effects.

Getting professional help

According to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 88,000 deaths in the United States annually. Numerous studies have suggested that no type of alcohol is better or worse than another.

Another report by the World Health Organization (WHO) says that every year 3.3 million deaths result from alcohol, which represents 5.9 percent of all deaths. An excessive intake of alcohol is a major factor for more than 200 diseases.

If you or your loved one is addicted to alcohol, seek medical help immediately. The Florida Alcohol Addiction Helpline can assist you in finding the most effective treatment for your addiction. You can contact our treatment experts at 866-220-5381 or chat online for more information.