Alcohol (impact on the brain)

In moderation alcohol is a good relaxant and can induce insights by relaxing the brain (for more details see other parts of this knowledge base).

However, too much alcohol is problematic, as it negatively affects the functioning of different parts of the brain, eg it dampens the effectiveness of

i) prefrontal lobes (it governs attention, motivation, planning and learning. The first drink has a negative impact on this region, ie makes us less capable of handling complicated considerations)

ii) nucleus accumbens (reward centre of the brain. Alcohol enhances the secretion of dopamine which initially encourages a false sense of euphoria and well-being, ie everything looks good. Over time this feeling can dissipate into despair and feeling miserable)

iii) amygdala (it covers your reaction to the world, ie flight, fight, freeze, etc; alcohol suppresses its activity as a safety mechanism)

iv) cerebellum (controls balance and coordination - when drunk, we tend to stumble and stagger when walking)

v) hippocamus (responsible for forming memories of our lives. Mostly impacted if alcohol is drunk very quickly, ie only able to remember some things that occurred when you were drunk. In extreme cases, where binge drinking causes blackout the hippocamus shuts down and you have no memory of what happened.

The impact of alcohol on these centres of the brain results in alcoholic myopia occurring, ie

"...we don't have the brainpower to handle more complex, long-term considerations. We are distracted by the unexpected pleasure of the alcohol. Our neurological burglar alarm is turned off. We become altered versions of ourselves, beholden to the moment......can do things that require short-term storage of information..."

Malcolm Gladwell 2019

Women are more negatively impacted by alcohol than men, ie women will get drunk quicker.

Food can be important, ie

"...Having a meal in your stomach when you drink reduces your peak BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) by about a third..."

Aaron White as quoted by Malcolm Gladwell 2019

NB

"...when they are drunk, and have been transformed by alcohol into a person that makes sense of the world around them very differently..."

Malcolm Gladwell 2019

Drunk are very much focused on the moment, ie what is happening now, and does not consider the long-term consequences of their behaviour.

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