Substance abuse studies have found that many people use alcohol to cope with the stress of modern life.  The demands of work, family and finances can be unrelenting, especially for people who have little social support.  Natural disasters and other tragic events in the news add another layer of stress.  Using alcohol to relax and "get away from it all" can be safe in moderation, but attempting to deal with chronic untreated stress by drinking can lead to alcohol substance abuse.

Alcohol Substance Abuse and Early Childhood Experiences

Researchers have found that there appears to be a link between a drinker's early childhood experiences and the use of alcohol to deal with stress.  Exposure to traumatic experiences in infancy and childhood may shape an individual's stress response and contribute to a predisposition for alcohol substance abuse.  The relationship between stress and alcohol abuse is even more marked when healthy coping mechanisms and a strong social support system are not present.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, children and teenagers who experience trauma from violence or a disaster have a greater change for developing drug or alcohol substance abuse problems later in life.  Early intervention for depression and anxiety can help reduce the risk of substance abuse.  The Anxiety Disorders Association of America reports that about 20 percent of Americans who have been diagnosed with an anxiety or depression have a drug or alcohol substance abuse disorder.  Ironically, the symptoms of one disorder can worsen the symptoms of the other.

Stress and Alcoholism Relapse

While there is no evidence that stress alone will lead to alcoholism, stress can be a factor in alcoholism relapse.  Recovering alcoholics who suffer a relapse will often cite chronic stress as the reason that they began drinking again.  One way to avoid this type of relapse is by meeting with other recovered drinkers and creating a network of support.

Getting help for an alcohol substance abuse problem will not eliminate problems related to stress and anxiety.  Both problems should be treated at the same time in order to reduce the chances of alcohol abuse relapse.