Just one drink makes people more likely to do harm: study

Know your limits.

Downing just one shot of whiskey — or any adult beverage with a similar alcohol content — makes people more likely to harm others, or otherwise behave badly, a new study found.

“Despite the fact that many crimes are conducted under the influence of alcohol, there is little research to understand how drunk people think about right and wrong, or what their intentions are,” study author Mariola Paruzel-Czachura of the University of Silesia in Katowice told PsyPost.

“We all saw that drunk people might behave immorally or inappropriately, but no one before us studied this tendency in the laboratory. We aimed to test it, asking if drunk participants would be willing to do something wrong.”

The study, recently published a study in the peer-reviewed journal Psychopharmacology, found that drinking just one alcoholic beverage did influence individuals’ perceptions of right and wrong and could potentially lead them to act on behaviors they might otherwise consider immoral — such as engaging in so-called deviant sexual behaviors, or selling their souls.

Researchers at the University of Silesia separated participants into three groups: the alcohol group, the placebo group (those who were made to think they were drunk but were not) and the control group.


Alcohol altered people’s care and purity foundations but did not change their fairness, loyalty, or authority foundations.
Igor Normann – stock.adobe.com

Each person was presented with a series of scenarios which they were asked to rank the scenarios from “I’d do it for free” to “I’d do it for 1 million dollars,” with an option to decline the action for any amount of money.

The scenarios set included things such as sticking a pin into the palm of a child they didn’t know, or cursing their parents to their face, to explore to what extent people would be likely to violate the five core moral foundations while lubricated.

The study found that alcohol altered people’s care and purity foundations but did not change their fairness, loyalty, or authority foundations.

Intoxicated people were more likely to harm others and engage in “impure” behaviors, researchers said.

“We can conclude that probably when people drink alcohol (one drink) they still think the same about moral issues, but at the same time, they are more willing to do something wrong,” Paruzel-Czachura said.


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Intoxicated people were more likely to harm others and engage in “impure” behaviors including harming animals.
Sergio – stock.adobe.com

She suggested that the results “may be related to cognitive and emotional changes after drinking.”

Understanding how alcohol impacts people mentally and physically is increasingly important as Americans are now drinking as much alcohol as they did during the Civil War.

Excessive alcohol use was responsible for more than 140,000 deaths in the US each year between 2015 and 2019, the equivalent of more than 380 deaths per day, according to the CDC.

While some studies claim to support the potential health benefits of light to moderate alcohol consumption, several others have found that any amount of alcohol could increase the risk of developing health complications.

As many Americans struggle to manage their drinking, an increasing number of millennials and Gen Zers are exploring sobriety with their health in mind.


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