Dr. Rebecca Monk of Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom and her team have uncovered startling new evidence that may explain why people are drink dependent.
Through a computer-based study, scientists were able to determine that just the smell of alcohol can make it harder for people to control their behavior.
Published in the journal Psychopharmacology, the team looked at a group of participants who had to wear a face mask. Some of the people in the group had a mask infused with an alcoholic citrus solution in it, while the rest of the participants had a non-alcoholic one.
They had to press a button when the letter K or a picture of a beer bottle appeared on screen. When the participants incorrectly pressed the button, the researchers recorded it as a false alarm. These false alarms were an indicator that the person’s ability to control his or her behavior decreased.
“During the experiment, it seemed that just the smell of alcohol was making it harder for participants to control their behavior to stop pressing a button,” Dr. Monk said.
She added: “We know that alcoholic behaviors are shaped by our environment—including who we’re with and the settings in which we drink.
“This research is a first attempt to explore other triggers, such as smell, that may interfere with people’s ability to refrain from a particular behavior.”
Her colleague Dr. Derek Heim points out that other studies in this field will help to further understanding of addiction and substance abuse.