Alcohol is one of the substances almost everyone consumes, but few people actually know how it alters one’s mind. For some, alcohol is just something that makes it easier to have fun and enjoy yourself, but for others, it’s an addiction. Either way, before you pick up another glass of booze, you should know how it affects your brain. Just like caffeine, alcohol can be used to achieve certain behaviors, such as boosting your confidence – this is why you end up texting your ex after a glass of champagne. However, on long term, it may lead to an addiction as well as other issues, all of which are sourced in the effects of alcohol on your brain.
Alcohol relaxes your brain
Alcohol blocks the production of glutamate, which is a neurotransmitter that keeps your brain active. When you drink, your brain lacks glutamate, so it relaxes. This is why your reflexes are slowed down and you need more time to process the information. The more alcohol, the less glutamate, so you eventually start having problems thinking, which leads to poor decision making.
Alcohol increases the production of GABA
Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a substance produced by your body to balance the effect of the glutamate. Alcohol increases its production, so your brain relaxes even more under GABA. With this excess of relaxing agents, you are prone to falling asleep or passing out. The more alcohol you have, the more confused you get, which is why alcohol addicts always feel disoriented and out of control.
Because of this effect, combining alcohol with benzodiazepenes is potentially deadly. These drugs also increase the GABA production and when you mix them with alcohol, your body produces high amounts of the substance, which can slow down your heart rate and the respiratory system. This substance also impairs your movements and promotes stumbling and clumsy walking.
You also feel happy
Until this point, alcohol makes you tired and confused, so it’s not exactly what you would want in order to feel better. But, alcohol also increases dopamine, which is one of the happiness hormones, that actions on the reward center in your brain. Dopamine makes you feel happy after drinking, so you drink again. This is why so many people become addicted, as they are looking for that fake happiness over and over again. Dopamine is usually released while exercising or having a pleasant conversation, along with other substances. When you drink and the brain is already tired and confused, dopamine gives you the feeling everything is amazing and makes you want to drink more, so you become even happier. It also promotes memory loss, so many people drink in the attempt to forget about their problems.
An interesting fact is that alcohol’s effect on dopamine levels is more prominent in men, which explains why more men are alcoholics, compared to women. According to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, 10% of men become alcoholics, while only 5% of women have the same fate.
Alcohol creates the addiction
When you drink, your brain is confused, tired and happy, which makes you feel relaxed, courageous and ecstatic. For those who only drink from time to time, this is a good feeling, but when you start drinking frequently, things change. In time, your body needs more alcohol to achieve the same feeling, which makes you drink more. After couple of years, you are an alcoholic.
When you look at this process, you realize how easy it is for someone to become an alcoholic, so it’s always best to call it a day after couple of glasses of booze.