Alcohol's effects on human emotions: a review of the stimulation/depression hypothesis

Int J Addict. 1982 Jan;17(1):155-80. doi: 10.3109/10826088209054615.


Recent hypotheses hold that acute alcohol consumption sequentially stimulates and then depresses (stimulation/depression) the drinker's emotional state as well as other physiological and non-mood-related behavioral functions. This paper traces the development of the stimulation/depression hypothesis as applied to human emotions and critically evaluates investigations of alcohol's acute emotional effects in order to assess its validity. Although some evidence suggests and elatant (i.e., stimulant) effect of alcohol at moderate intoxication levels, particularly on the rising limb of the blood alcohol curve, it is concluded that because of methodological inadequacies in the relevant experimental literature, the stimulation/depression hypothesis as applied to emotions remains largely untested. Conceptual and methodological refinements necessary for testing the hypothesis are discussed, and potentially important nonpharmacological factors that may also influence postconsumption mood changes are identified.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect / drug effects
  • Depression, Chemical
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Emotions / drug effects*
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Stimulation, Chemical


  • Ethanol