See How Does Alcohol Affect Your Body, Mind And Spirit

What Alcohol Consumption Does to Your Brain

Alcohol is a depressant. It slows down your brain and this affects the way you think, feel and behave.

Alcohol is a drug and can be toxic.

Beer, wine, spirits or hard liquor, liqueurs, ports, sherries and homebrew all contain different amounts of alcohol.

The more alcohol a drink contains the stronger it will be.

Large quantities of alcohol are poisonous.

To learn more about other drugs, visit Drug Aware.

What does it do?

When you drink alcohol it gets into your bloodstream, it circulates around your body including your brain.

Alcohol slows down your brain and affects the way it carries messages. It also affects how your brain talks to other parts of your body.

At first you might feel relaxed and happy. At the same time your liver is working really hard to break down the alcohol and clear any toxins out of your body. A healthy liver can break down about one standard drink per hour.

If you are drinking faster than your body can get rid of the alcohol you will get increasingly drunk, and the alcohol may begin to cause some damage.

That is why it is really important to take it easy and not drink more than the recommended amounts.

We love alcohol, and we’d never tell you to put down your pint glass. Moderate drinking—about two servings per day for men—brings a slew of health benefits, from lowering your risk for diabetes to boosting your creativity.

But if you start to overdo it, alcohol can certainly have negative effects. Here’s what happens in your body when you throw down more than a few.

What Alcohol Consumption Does to Your Brain

Alcohol is a large part of our society. We drink it when we go out to brunch, lunch, and dinner, when we have guests over, we go out for drinks to catch up with old friends or for a first date, and cheers each other enthusiastically to celebrate birthdays, weddings, graduations, and the like.

Whether you’re having one or two casual drinks or you’ve tallied up enough drinks to have you dancing and singing on top of the bar, it can’t be denied that even just a small amount of alcohol affects our brains and our behaviors.

Alcohol impairs brain areas such as the cerebellum—the control site for your balance and coordination—and your cerebral cortex, which is responsible for thinking, memory, and learning, says Kimberly S. Walitzer, Ph.D., deputy director of the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions.

Plus, University of Michigan researchers found the amygdala—an area of the brain involved in fear and anger—showed less of a reaction to threatening faces after a single drink, potentially explaining why you’re prone to risky behavior (like fighting a bouncer) under the influence.

 Your Skin

This gives you bloodshot eyes and worsens a ruddy-skinned condition called rosacea, says dermatologist David E. Bank, M.D., of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.

Your heart pumps more fluid into surrounding tissues to balance out those alcohol-widened arteries and veins, leaving you with a bloated, puffy face.

Your Muscles

Alcohol tinkers with your hormonal and inflammatory responses to exercise, making it more difficult for your body to repair damaged proteins and build new ones (essential steps in getting ripped), according to a recent review in the journal Sports Medicine.

Your Heart

Moderate drinking might protect your ticker due to the blood vessel-relaxing polyphenols that alcohol contains or by raising your levels of HDL, (“good” cholesterol)

But recent study in the journal Alcohol suggests these effects may only benefit the 15 percent of the population with a certain genetic profile affecting HDL levels. It’s too soon to recommend genetic testing to guide your alcohol consumption, she points out.

Your Stomach

Harmful toxins and bacteria leak from your digestive system into your bloodstream, prompting a dangerous immune-system response that can eventually lead to liver disease and other health problems.

At lower doses, alcohol irritates your stomach, increases acidity, and relaxes the muscle at the end of your esophagus, causing heartburn, Dr. Sacks says.

How Alcohol acts as a Depressant

effect of alcohol on the brain, gaba alcohol, alcohol depressant

When you stop drinking your blood alcohol content begins to fall and has a sedative effect on your brain. This is why people tend to get sleepy after a glass or two of wine or “pass out” quickly at the end of a night of drinking.

The Spiritual Affect of Alcohol

Some studies suggest that alcohol affects those who are spiritual themselves differently than others. Researchers at the University of Kentucky found that the more religious someone is, the more likely they are to become aggressive when drinking.  In contrast, a study from the Journal of Studies on Alcohol found that spirituality, prayer, and meditation was of great benefit for those recovering from alcoholism.

Psychology Today  wrote an article about the spirituality of children, and how overtime we tend to lose that spirituality as we grow and become adults. One of the contributing factors of this are drugs and alcohol, and the peer pressure to join in and use these substances.

Drinking is often used to fill the spiritual void that develops overtime, and causes adults to focus on “costly, destructive, short-term goals” rather than the more long-term journey of finding happiness and purpose within themselves.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of whether you approach drunkenness from a scientific or a spiritual background, one thing we can all agree on is that drinking, especially when you have one or two more than perhaps you should, changes how you think, act, and effects your ability to refrain from texting your ex-boyfriend or walk down a set of stairs without falling over.

Like it or not, social drinking is a large part of our society. Please always remember to drink within your limits, never drink and drive, and for heaven’s sake don’t post anything on social media until you are back to your sober, rational self!

The Science of the Effect of Alcohol on the Brain

Alcohol is classified as a depressant, as opposed to a stimulant like the caffeine in coffee and tea. Despite this classification, when people drink, they tend to have a spark of energy, and feel excitement, elation, and that well-known alcohol “buzz”.  Why is it that something that technically is supposed to make you sleepy instead make you able to drop it like it’s hot on the dance floor?

Alcohol is considered a depressant because it targets the chemical GABA, which is the primary neurotransmitter in your brain. When this is affected, it alters our mood, behavior, arousal, and neuropsychological functioning.

How Alcohol acts as a Stimulant

effect of alcohol on the brain, gaba alcohol, alcohol depressant

Everyone’s favorite form of “liquid courage” is more than just a depressant, however. When you are drinking, as your blood alcohol content rises, it acts as more of a stimulant. Several changes happen in your brain as you drink:

  • levels increase of Norepinephrine, the chemical responsible for excitement and impulsive behavior
  • Activity decreases in the prefrontal cortex of your brain, the region responsible for rational thought, decision making, and violence
  • Activity decreases in the temporal cortex, the region that houses the hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for forming new memories, so a decrease in activity here explains “blackouts” and the inability to recollect events from your night out.
  • Activity decreases in the cerebellum, the region responsible for motor control.

All of this explains why people tend to be “braver” while drinking, agree to things they normally wouldn’t (“of course I’ll sing that Adele song for karaoke!”), are more likely to hurt themselves (“no seriously guys, I can break dance. Just watch!”), and forget portions or even entire evenings out on the town.

Like it or not, social drinking is a large part of our society. Please always remember to drink within your limits, never drink and drive, and for heaven’s sake don’t post anything on social media until you are back to your sober, rational self!

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