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Is TikTok Culture Influencing Us To Drink More or Less?

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Social media might not be the place you expect to see a ton of alcohol-related content. But thanks to TikTok’s giant platform, the endless “For You” page can show you sobriety journeys, binge drinking stories, and everything in between.

With over a billion users worldwide, there’s a little of everything on the app. But with such variety in content, is TikTok influencing us to drink more or less? How is it affecting America’s view of alcohol, and what kind of videos go viral the most?

Below, we’ll dive into TikTok’s impact on alcohol use and the way people—especially Gen Zers—think about drinking. 

TikTok and Alcohol: Pros and Cons

TikTok is one of the largest platforms in the world, meaning you can see all kinds of drinking-related content while you scroll. 

delighted female friends gathered around smartphone
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels

Here’s what you might expect to find on both ends of the spectrum:

Binge Drinking on TikTok

On the one hand, TikTok’s algorithm can promote some unhealthy content around alcohol, which may be troubling if you’re trying to cut back or quit. For example:

  • Videos about binge drinking can go viral and make their way onto your For You page (FYP)
  • Some of the content can be triggering, especially if it evokes feelings that you tend to associate with drinking

But just how many of TikTok’s videos actually promote this type of content? 

In a 2021 study from Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers looked at what came up under the #alcohol hashtag on TikTok. 

They found that the vast majority (98%) of videos had a “pro-alcohol sentiment,” with over half (61%) depicting drinking several drinks in a row. Sixty-nine percent of videos showcased feel-good experiences with alcohol. And only four percent displayed some kind of negative sentiment about booze.1 

In other words, there’s tons of alcohol-focused content on the app—both good and bad. And that’s why it’s possible to see videos showing harmful drinking habits on your feed. 

Moderation Trends on TikTok 

While plenty of the #alcohol content promotes booze, not all TikTok videos paint it in a positive light. For example, #alcoholfree is another popular hashtag that has amassed a whopping 1.5 billion views on the app—and it’s all about living life sober.

Usually, the content that focuses on cutting back or quitting ends up under different hashtags—like #quitdrinking, #sobriety, #dampdrinking, and more.

With this in mind, moderation movements also often go viral on TikTok. Damp drinking, sober curiosity, and plain old moderation have been trending on the app. And with their rising popularity, they’ve helped to give users—and Gen Zers especially—a fresh perspective on alcohol use. 

The Most Common Moderation Trends

Here’s a little bit more about TikTok’s most famous moderation movements:

  • Damp drinking is all about finding balance with your alcohol habits.
  • Sober curiosity involves trying out sobriety for a period of time.
  • Mindful drinking means looking at the “when and why” behind your alcohol use, which often leads to less consumption.

How These Movements Make an Impact 

If you’re looking to quit or cut back on alcohol, TikTok moderation movements can be a surprising source of inspiration. On this side of the app, you’ll find personable creators sharing their journeys, exploring the reasons why people drink, and helping others feel not so alone. 

In this corner of TikTok you might also find:

  • Plenty of mocktail recipes. Once the algorithm figures out that you want to cut back or quit, you could start seeing alcohol-free drink recipes pop up on your feed.
  • People opening up about how alcohol use truly impacted their lives. TikTok creators tend to show raw honesty that’s hard to find anywhere else.
  • Tools and strategies for drinking less. Little tips like alternating drinks with water, teaming up with an accountability buddy, etc., are sprinkled all over the drink-less side of TikTok.
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TikTok’s Complex Alcohol Policy 

Clearly, alcohol falls into a lot of different niches within this popular app. But with all of these varied perspectives, where does the company actually stand on drinking-related content? How does TikTok really feel about alcohol?

influencer recording video in front of brick wall with neon signs
Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels

When it comes to its advertising policy, TikTok states that creators must not post any branded content that relates to alcohol. This includes videos on beer, wine, spirits, and even alcohol-free alternatives.2 

In other words, alcohol brands have a tough time existing on TikTok. However, there are some workarounds that they may use to grow on the app. For example, some brands choose to work with “drink-fluencers” or post non-alcohol-related content to gain followers.

For Casual Creators 

On the more casual side of TikTok, content isn’t bound to the branded policies. Instead, it just has to follow the community guidelines. 

For a video to stick to these rules, it must not:

  • Depict alcohol consumption or possession by minors
  • Show any alcohol-related content that could put the well-being of young people at risk
  • Offer the purchase of booze or other substances
  • Portray alcohol use that is dangerous, even if the video involves people of legal drinking age

While TikTok frowns upon unsafe drinking videos, there are no hard and fast rules for what that actually means. That’s why, every once in a while, you might stumble upon a video that promotes heavy drinking on your FYP. 

The Recovery Community on TikTok 

One of the most positive aspects of TikTok is its growing recovery community. On this side of the app, people come together to share their stories, progress, and tips for overcoming triggers. And for those on their own sober journeys, it can be a powerful place to find strategies and resources. 

young man sitting on red couch looking at smartphone
Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels

One of the creators in this space is @YourSoberPal, otherwise known as Laura. In one of her most recent videos, she portrays what it was like when every day felt like “day one” of getting sober—until she finally got the help she needed.

Another sober creator is @AnonymousAshley1, who shares about her past with binge drinking, and how her life has changed since she quit in 2019. 

Accounts like these resonate with people who’ve struggled with alcohol, helping to normalize experiences that are so often stigmatized. Plus, they offer organic communities where people can share stories and support each other in recovery. 

The Takeaway on TikTok and Drinking

The bottom line is that TikTok’s impact on alcohol use is complicated. There are countless niches on the app, and they all relate to drinking a little differently. 

On one end, there can sometimes be triggering or alcohol-promoting content that goes viral. On the other end, there are moderation movements making a wider impact than ever before—especially among Gen Z. And finally, there’s an ever-growing #sobriety community where people can find hope, support, and tips for recovery.

For now, TikTok’s impact can be both harmful and helpful—depending on the videos that end up on your feed. If you use the app, you can make the most of it by interacting with the content that you resonate with most. 

Ready to Cut Back or Quit?

If you’ve been looking for extra support in cutting back or quitting drinking, Ria Health can help. By signing up, you can gain access to medical professionals, evidence-based medication, and recovery coaching—all from your smartphone. Learn more about how it works, or book a call today.

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Written By:
Alicia Schultz
Alicia is a Minnesota-based freelancer who writes for Ria Health and various other brands in the health and wellness space. Beyond addiction and recovery, she also covers topics relating to general well-being, mindfulness, fitness, mental health, and more. When she’s not writing, you can find her relaxing with her three-legged cat, trying new workout routines, and spending time with her loved ones.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
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