The Smell of Alcohol May Increase Risk of ‘Losing Control’, Study Says

By Aly Walansky |

Courtesy of PureWow

Anyone who has tried to meet a project deadline after three martinis knows that alcohol can impede our concentration  (you may have read my recent Irish Dogs Can Now Order Thai Delivery)– but a new study says we may not even need to have a drink to see these results.

A recent study at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, England, Smells like Inhibition: The Effects of Olfactory and Visual Alcohol Cues on Inhibitory Controldiscovered that people who were exposed to the smell of alcohol were too distracted to complete their assigned tasks.

"We know that alcohol behaviors are shaped by our environment including who we're with and the settings in which we drink," Dr. Rebecca Monk, a professor of psychology at Edge Hill University, said in a media release.

Related: 20 Wine Words Most Drinkers Don't Know 

As part of the research, 40 people were given a face mask that was laced with either an alcohol or a non-alcoholic scent.  Everyone was then asked various computerized tasks and were analyzed based on reaction time and accuracy. These tasks included pressing the correct button when either the letter “K” or a bottle of beer was on their computer screen.

Those with the alcohol-laced masks had slower reaction times and higher false cue responses, leading the researchers to surmise that even the smell of alcohol was making it harder for participants to control their responses.

Triggers and cravings are very real pieces of the addiction and recovery puzzle. “Each individual has a different set of triggers. Triggers can be internal or external and can lead to difficulty abstaining from use and even "slip ups" or relapse. It is important for an individual to identify their own set of triggers. Recent research has suggested that even the smell of alcohol can serve as a trigger leading to an increased desire to drink or leading to general distraction from other tasks. This research thus proposes that those individuals who are triggered by even the smell of alcohol should avoid situations in which it is present at least during the beginning of their recovery. Understanding and being able to identify your triggers, including the power of smell, can help you prepare and protect yourself, create effective action plans, and lower the risk of relapse,” says Dr. Rachel Needle, a licensed psychologist and substance abuse expert, Clinical Director at Seacrest Recovery Center.

So maybe if you are trying to cut back on the booze this weekend, don’t sit too close to your shot-chugging friend. That smell may have you ordering your own tequila in no time.