Drawing on both tension reduction and social learning theories, we hypothesized that work stressors lead to increased distress, which in turn promotes problematic alcohol use among vulnerable individuals. Vulnerable individuals are hypothesized to possess few personal and social resources for responding adaptively to work-related stressors and distress and to hold positive expectancies for alcohol's effects. We tested our model in a random sample of 574 employed adults, using a combination of path analytic and hierarchical moderated regression techniques. Results revealed no support for a simple tension reduction model of work stress-induced drinking and only limited support for a social learning model. We conclude that a much more circumscribed view of the etiologic role of work stress in problematic alcohol use is indicated.