What Alcohol Consumption Does to Your Brain

Alcohol is and has always been a part of our society. We drink it when we go to lunch, dinner, with friends and family. We drink it while celebrating birthdays, weddings and graduations. Whether it’s only one casual drink or enough to have us 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 in a specific way.


This beverage is classified as a depressant, opposite of the caffeine found in coffee and tea, which is considered as a stimulant. Despite this classification, when people drink alcohol they have more energy, feel excitement, elation, and that well-known alcohol “buzz”.  So, how is it possible for a depressant to make you able to “drop it like it’s hot” on the dance floor instead of making you sleepy?

The science behind alcohol that explains these strange behaviors is connected with the chemical GABA. The alcohol targets the chemical, which is the primary neurotransmitter in your brain and when affected it alerts our mood, behavior, arousal, and neuropsychological functioning.


However, everyone’s favorite form of “liquid courage” is much more than just a depressant. With each glass, as the amount of alcohol in your blood rises, this depressant acts more and more like a stimulant. Several changes happen in your brain as you drink it including:

  • The levels of Norepinephrine increase. This is the chemical responsible for excitement and impulsive behavior.
  • Decrease of activity 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 that is responsible for forming new memories. This 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 these changes explain the false bravery people tend to have when drunk. They agree to things they normally wouldn’t, are more likely to hurt themselves, and forget portions or even entire evenings out on the town.



Once you stop drinking the amount of alcohol in your blood starts to fall and has a sedative effect on your brain. This is why people usually get sleepy after a glass or two or “pass out” quickly at the end of a night of drinking.



Some studies suggest that alcohol can cause different behaviors in people who are more spiritual. Researchers at the University of Kentucky found that religious people are more likely to become aggressive when drinking. Opposite from this, a study from the Journal of Studies on Alcohol found that spirituality, prayer, and meditation was of great benefit for alcocolics recovering from alcoholism.

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

Alcohol is often used to fill in the spiritual void that develops with growing up. It causes adults to focus on “short-term goals” rather than the more long-term journey of finding happiness and purpose within themselves.


Regardless of the approach we can all agree that drinking, especially when you have one or two glasses more than you should’ve, 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.

Whether you like it or not, drinking is a large part of our society, but always keep in mind to drink within your limits!


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