Your Brain on Drugs: Alcohol

Your Brain on Drugs: Alcohol

Booze Alcohol, one of the most commonly used and abused drugs in the world comes in a variety of forms and does one thing quickly and well. It changes the way you feel But to what do we owe these feelings of release and freedom? How could ingestion of one simple substance so drastically change not only your actions but thoughts and perception. As alcohol enters the body and makes it’s way to your brain, it begins to interact with your neurons or brain cells. In our previous video on marijuana which you can click here we explain the actions of neurons and their chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. But there are two main types of neurotransmitters that these neurons use to communicate, or send electrical signals. Excitatory neurons use glutamate, well inhibitory neurons use GABA. The yin and yang if you will. Much like the zeroes and ones of a computer, these two messengers have contrasting roles. Glutamate begins a wave of excitation while GABA not only inhibits this flow, but helps to organize and differentiate the results in your brain. And just like a computer, these signals can be combined in enormous complexity to form actions and thoughts. So how does alcohol affect these two signals? Turns out it suppresses glutamate transmission and enhances GABA transmission, so you get less excitation and more inhibition. And because glutamate sites become less effective, information flow becomes slow, and only the largest signals can make it through. This means you feel less, percieve less, notice less, and remember less. In conjunction the increased GABA hushes the excessive background noise of activity fine tuning and clarifying your thoughts, but to an excessive degree. This is why you may have heard that alcohol is a depressant. But inhibition of your neurons is not the same as social inhibition. Instead, it simply cleans up and removes extraneous activity by removing less significant excitation. Without normal GABA transmission the excessive excitatory action, would resemble a epileptic seizure There’d be no clarity of thought. While drunk, your GABA channels are wide opened. Combined with the lack of glutamate, you begin to think very little but with great clarity. It’s what causes the momentums attitude of a drunk, often repeating the same idea or proclamation over and over. Thinking clearly about almost nothing. Hmm Got a burning question you want answered? Ask it in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter. And subscribe for more weekly science videos. Subtitles written by the YouTube community.


  1. Please for anyone who sees this comment NEVER DRINK ALCOHOL I'm only 16 but suffer a physical addiction to alcohol I can no longer go to school my anxiety is that bad I dont even get drunk no more It just makes me feel normal you shake and hurt till you have a glass I never go in public I never talk to mates or do anything and I'm only 16 I wouldn't wish the mentall and physical pain I deal with daily upon my worst enemies we only think of it being harmless beacuse since a young age we've been brain washed to socially accept alcohol in a sense anyway. You can't tell me you've never heard someone say something along the lines of .."oh its a hot day mate might grab a drink" well that drink there grabbing has put me in the worst chapter of my life and has the potential to do the same to you I might only be a 16 year old kid but I'm experiencing this first hand so please do me a favour never touch alcohol..

  2. Alcohol is very bad for you. I only drink wine yet not so often. Wine, for me, is the best alcohol if we use it not so frequently.

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