Something about intoxication must be highly
people knowingly sacrifice so much for it.
Intoxication is not without its benefits. A blood alcohol level of .05 may
help an inhibited person perform more effectively in social situations. On the other
hand, intoxication is implicated in 65% of murders, 88% of knifings, 65% of spouse
battering, 55% of violent child abuse.
Intoxication is rewarding for precisely the same reason it produces suffering - it
diminishes the influence of remote stimuli. According to the Attention Allocation
Model proposed by Steele and Josephs1: intoxication reduces cognitive capacity,
thereby limiting attention to the immediate environment. Remote stimuli such as
moral concerns or fear of consequences do not get processed, and so are not available to
exert an inhibitory influence. This shortsightedness - Alcohol
Induced Myopia - is responsible for alcohol beneficial and
It is not that intoxication produces pleasant moods or destructive behaviors
directly, rather it releases processes that otherwise would have been inhibited.
When the immediate stimuli elicit violence and remote stimuli inhibit it, alcohol
intoxication releases violence; when the immediate circumstances elicit helpfulness,
intoxication promotes uninhibited helping behavior. In both cases the intoxicated
person is disproportionally influenced by the most attention grabbing features of the
Rewarding aspects of alcohol induced myopia:
- Self-inflation - Favorable self-images of power, sexuality, etc., are not inhibited
by abstract principals, or previous negative experiences.
- Relief - Escape from worry and conflict is possible, because the limited cognitive
resources of an intoxicated person are easily preoccupied. Lacking the resources to
process remote information, the intoxicated person is blind to worries and
Myopia, which is responsible for the benefits of intoxication, is also responsible
for its terrible costs. When the immediate circumstances arouse an unfavorable
self-image, myopia releases self-loathing. Now remote stimuli that might balance
extreme negative feelings, or inhibit irreversible behaviors are not available. As a
consequence, irretrievable actions may be released.
Myopia increases with dose. The more alcohol consumed, the greater is the myopia,
and hence the greater the dis-inhibition However, even when not intoxicated, humans tend to
be myopic. Alcoholics lapse even though they know better, because immediate
circumstances has a greater influence on behavior than distant consequences.
"There is a lot of pain in life. The only pain that can
be avoided is the pain that results from trying to avoid pain."
- R. D. Laing