The Social Cognition Effects of Socialized Drug and Alcohol use

For my first blog post I thought I would begin with a topic that I came up with from listening to the talks last week, specifically Alcoholism by Corrine Marshall; this topic is the social cognition effects that drug and alcohol use  have on the individuals who regularly use them as a sort of “social activity” and the effect correlation between these different drugs. Drug users usually report that they first begin to use drugs in a social setting to enhance social interactions. For example, this could be individuals who are social drinkers, or someone who takes “ecstasy” before going to parties. To reiterate I am looking at individuals  who use drugs socially and not those who use them by themselves recreationally.

What impact do these activities have on a individuals social cognition? I believe that a big reason for the social use of many drugs stems from the direct impairment of the brains ability to recognize and ditinguish between different facial expressions and emotional alteration/enhancement; this leads to individuals believing that their social interactions are “enhanced”. I believe this to be at least one of the driving forces behind social drug use. So to be perfectly clear, I am saying that these specific drugs are used social because of their ability to change how the brain processes social interactions. 

There are four different studies I will be looking at for this info; studies performed on Alcohol, on the Amphetamine known as  “Speed”, and on the Amphetamine known as “Ecstasy”. These drugs all effect the brain in different ways but the studies all reported that individuals ability to read facial expressions were decreased while emotional states were either altered or intensified. For the amphetamines specifically subjects were more likely to experience intense positive and happy emotions, and were more likely to view pictures of facial expressions positively. However individuals under the influence of alcohol were more likely to experience either intense positive or negative emotions and responded more negatively to pictures of facial expressions. These changes in cognitive processes lead to drastic changes in social interaction and this dynamic change in social interaction is what makes the social use of drugs appealing to many individuals.

The papers that I am sourcing to back my claims have all been scientifically peer reviewed and I find nothing wrong with their methods. They all clearly provide the evidence that I have presented concerning the alternations to cognition leading to changes in social interaction. However, their findings by themselves do not come to the same conclusion as I do about the reasons for the drug use; which is that the altered social interaction that they create are what make them so attractive to certain individuals. I’m sure that others will argue that it is the addicted properties, social pressure, or other such reasons. However, remember that my argument is based on purely social drug use and I am ignoring drug use based on addiction as I am attempting to look at drug use in a purely social interactive light based on changes in brain ability to process social interactions.



9 thoughts on “The Social Cognition Effects of Socialized Drug and Alcohol use

  1. This is an interesting topic for a blog post, I enjoyed the post. I found a article that you may find interesting. This article supports the position that social drug use can offer individuals an enhancement in their social lives. I’m not saying that this was your position, but that is the position of the article and I found it very interesting. The article states that social drug use can offer a positive cognitive enhancement, and increase brain function. These enhancing drugs can also be used for increased quality of life and extended work productivity.

    Greely, H., Sahakian, B., Harris, J., Kessler, R. C., Gazzaniga, M., Campbell, P., & Farah, M. J. (2008). Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy. Nature, 456(7223), 702-705.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I find it interesting that you have attributed social drug use to the fact that drugs change the way people view social situations, I have to agree, but for different reasons. For many people, drugs or alcohol are used socially to reduce anxiety about the situation and produce a feeling of euphoria (Boys, Marsden & Strang, 2001). This decrease in anxiety, and increase in mood makes social drug or alcohol use very appealing to some individuals, as a form of self-medication. Have you ever gone to a party and felt uncomfortable, so you find you drank more, faster than you had initially planned? I would argue that many people would answer yes to that question, and bars make their money on that fact that people want to have a good time, and reduce their anxiety.

    Boys, A., Marsden, J. , Strang, J. (2001) Understanding reasons for drug use amongst young people: a functional perspective. Health Education Research 16 (4). doi:

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think this is very interesting study that was conducted on the effects of drug usage and the perceptions of people’s facial patterns. My only concern about the studies after looking at the participants was the fact that all the participants seemed to be of the so-called “WEIRD” variety (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic). While I understand that social interactions featuring alcohol and drugs often occur in the Western world, I would like to see what effects could be seen with samples from around the world.

    Wardle, M. C., Garner, M. J., Munafò, M.,R., & de Wit, H. (2012). Amphetamine as a social drug: Effects of d-amphetamine on social processing and behavior. Psychopharmacology, 223(2), 199-210. doi:

    Wardle, M. C., Kirkpatrick, M. G., de Wit, H. (2014). ‘Ecstasy’ as a social drug: MDMA preferentially affects responses to emotional stimuli with social content. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci, 9 (8), 1076-1081. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsu035

    Gorka, S. M., Fitzgerald, D. A., King, A. C., & Phan, K. L. (2013). Alcohol attenuates amygdala-frontal connectivity during processing social signals in heavy social drinkers. Psychopharmacology, 229(1), 141-54. doi:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Vito, thanks for your comment. I agree that the participants in the study were “WEIRD”. However I believe that socialized drug use various from culture to culture and that if you look at socialized drug use in different cultures their will be more differences than similarities. Another thing is that different cultures use different forms of drugs which would also vary the reasons behind social drug use. For example I found a very interesting article on socialized drug use in Native Americans Southwestern Tribes.


  4. Hello Aidan !
    Thank you for the comment on my blog :).
    I think you might also find this article interesting as well:

    Although it discusses social anxiety, I believe there are some cognitive connection to why human beings partake in social drug use. Probably to ease the fear-response systems in our brain. I also made a comment on the blog that discussed the brain regions associated with anxiety. This seems to be connected to your discussion about drug use and my discussion on alcoholism because the brain regions seem to be similar.
    So if the CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) is effective at reducing the effects of anxiety of subjects, then CBT is also used in addiction therapies. Which is what we see in studies.
    Maybe for a future discussion we could talk about the effectiveness of CBT.

    Klumpp, H., Fitzgerald, D. A., Angstadt, M., Post, D., & Phan, K. L. (2014). Neural response during attentional control and emotion processing predicts improvement after cognitive behavioral therapy in generalized social anxiety disorder. Psychological medicine, 44(14), 3109-3121.

    Sladky, R., Höflich, A., Küblböck, M., Kraus, C., Baldinger, P., Moser, E., … & Windischberger, C. (2015). Disrupted effective connectivity between the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex in social anxiety disorder during emotion discrimination revealed by dynamic causal modeling for fMRI. Cerebral Cortex, 25(4), 895-903.

    Uekermann, J., & Daum, I. (2008). Social cognition in alcoholism: a link to prefrontal cortex dysfunction?. Addiction, 103(5), 726-735.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow thank you for this response, I found the link to the first article especially interesting.
      I agree that high social anxiety could also lead to social drug use as a means to ease that anxiety. I like your connection of the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with drug abuse as well as social anxiety. I will look into this further so that I can maybe add it in a blog in the near future. Another thing I found very interesting in the article you posted, however, was the fact that it stated at the end that young people today are more likely to develop social anxiety due to technology. I was fascinated by this claim made and the evidence for it from the Sherry Turtle ted talk.
      To look further into that I went and found this study. If this subject interests you, you can find the article here.
      The study in question directly links problematic internet use with not just social anxiety, but with loneliness as well. It has social anxiety as the confounding variable for both internet use and loneliness. I feel like this would be a great subject for my next blog and would like to thank you for bringing it to my attention.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post Aidan! The studies you cited were really well planned. Here’s a good one I found about the stark contrast between High and Low Social Alcoholism:

    Mcmahon, R. C., Davidson, R. S., & Flynn, P. M. (1986). Psychological Correlates and Treatment Outcomes for High and Low Social Functioning Alcoholics. International Journal of the Addictions, 21(7), 819-835. doi:10.3109/10826088609027395

    Basically, I agree with your general idea, and I think that this study supports it from an antithetical point of view. You mentioned that you are ignoring drug use in non-social situations, well this study tries to find psychological correlates between heavy drinking in high and low social activity. Perhaps some peoples’ reason for drinking is more related to superficially coping with depression and anxiety and using ‘partying’ as an excuse to consume justifiably, rather than drinking purely because of conformity or peer pressure. Of course, there can be a whole spectrum of reasons as to why one would consume any one drug or class of drugs in particular, being that different drugs alter the brain differently, as well as socioeconomic factors dictating the illicit or legal purchase of pharmaceutical or street drugs.


    • Hi, thanks for the article, I found it very interesting. I agree that the reason many people drink, whether socially or recreationally, can very very well be linked to other superficial reasons. Sadly I found it difficult to focus my blog on such a broad aspect of social drug use. I realized that if I started talking about any more alternative reasons then my blog would start to become way too long. I like the fact that they used multiple different tests to measure the difference between highly social and low social alcohol users. In my blog most of the studies failed to focus on socioeconomic factors, as well as superficial coping, so this study was super informative. If you’re interested in more reports that have to do with the difference that social situations have on drug users, this paper
      might be of interest. It’s a study involving female drug abuses and their relationships before and after treatment. It focuses on the relationships and the effects it has on the future social cognition ability and how it is dependent on the relationships they have previous to the treatment and the affects that this has on future relationships.


  6. Great topic choice, I found your article to be very interesting. Alcohol and drugs can both be detrimental to one’s health, resulting in deficits in our mental processes. One’s decision-making capabilities can be severely impacted which can lead to dangerous situations. I have found this article titled “Age-related differences in ethanol withdrawal, withdrawal-induced anxiety, cognition, and response to allopregnanolone” supplementary to your topic. In this study, they look at differences of alcohol withdrawal as well as the long-term impact of chronic usage. This study was done on adults and rats. It was found that “After a 14-day cessation from ethanol, adult and aged rats treated with chronic ethanol diet showed spatial learning deficits in water maze acquisition and a cognitively-challenging reversal paradigm.” (Novier 2017). In conclusion, withdrawals showed cognitive impairment.

    Novier. (2017). Dissertation abstracts international. B. the sciences and engineering: Age-related differences in ethanol withdrawal, withdrawal-induced anxiety, cognition, and response to allopregnanolone. University Microfilms.


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