Alcohol might seem innocent enough when it’s poured in a glass but anyone who has suffered a serious hangover or two will tell you that isn’t the case. The dangers of the over consumption of alcohol are well-known but what exactly are the effects of alcohol on the brain?
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And how do these effects materialise in the first place? You’ve probably heard about how alcohol can cause cravings and a rush of dopamine and alcoholic drinks are usually very sugary beverages as well. So, let’s take a more detailed look at how alcohol can affect the brain.
Alcohol and Dopamine
Dopamine is likely a term you have heard but not everyone will know exactly what it is. Dopamine is a hormone and neurotransmitter that plays many important roles in both a person’s brain and body. Dopamine is released during pleasurable activities and these can take many forms including drinking alcohol.
In fact, during normal alcohol consumption, your brain could initially be flooded with dopamine. Now I know what you’re thinking this sounds like a good thing doesn’t it? But while this initial flood of dopamine can be viewed as a positive it does have some downsides to consider.
Drinking alcohol can certainly help you loosen up and feel more social and you will likely experience joy/ happiness for a while however this effect on the dopamine levels in the brain is not long-lasting. Overtime alcohol consumption will actually have a negative effect on the dopamine receptors in your brain.
Your brain will adapt as you drink more which means sooner or later the alcohol will lose its effectiveness when it comes to releasing dopamine. This is one of the main reasons many people struggle with alcohol addiction as they drink more and more in order to feel that rush of dopamine.
Alcohol cravings are a common occurrence and can affect many people. Even if you don’t consider yourself to have an alcohol problem you could still experience cravings every so often. But why do people experience alcohol cravings in the first place?
This is again connected to alcohol’s effects on the brain and because of what alcohol essential is. Alcohol, when you get right down to it, is a drug and like any drug when ingested it will have an impact on your body's natural order and condition.
Alcohol also directly impacts a person’s neurological pathways which means they can feel like they need a drink. Alcohol is also like most drugs very addictive and this again relates to the dopamine rush it can give people.
People want to experience that rush, their brain/ body is craving alcohol for it and so many people will then over-consume alcohol in order to experience it. So, given alcohol's impact on your brain if you drink it too much it’s easy to see why cravings occur because eventually your body and brain will feel like they are depending on it.
Alcohol and sugar are a complicated subject while some alcoholic beverages are quite low in sugar many are actually quite high in it. The issue with this is many people don’t actually realise they are drinking very sugary beverages and also don’t usually account for it in their diets.
Having too much sugar in your diet can cause an elevation of glucose in your blood and this could negatively impact your brain. We all know the dangers excessive sugar consumption can have on your body like damaging your teeth and weight gain. However, few people realise how it can impact their brain.
An elevation of glucose can impact the brain in a number of ways and research suggests it could slow cognitive function which could result in difficulty focusing and also harm your memory. In more extreme cases it could also cause inflammation around the brain.
Because people don’t often realise or account for the sugar content in alcoholic beverages this increased rate of sugar could impact their brain in several different ways and they often won’t realise it. So, it’s important to know exactly what is in the beverage you’re drinking.
Alcohol And Your Brain A Conclusion
So, in short, what can we say about alcohol and its effects on your brain? Well, alcohol certainly doesn’t benefit your brain’s health. Even occasional drinking can have negative effects which is why the utmost care should be taken when drinking alcohol. If you drink a lot of alcohol then now is the time to reassess because it could be doing a lot of harm to your brain without you even realising it.
Take A Break
From time-to-time it's good to take a break from things. Whether that be from chocolate, binge watching TV, or alcohol.
So, why not take a break, and go alcohol free for a week, or longer!