169 comments

  1. alcohol is a small molecule that interacts easily with many neurotransmitters compared to other drugs such as THC and cocaine. Drinking alcohol affects the gamma-Aminobutyric acid in your body producing an effect similar to valium which induces a feeling of relaxation and drowsiness. It also messes with your endorphins which gives you the “I feel no pain” mentality. All drugs which you can become addicted to affect the dopamine levels in your body which gives you a euphoric feeling as well as releasing Norepinephrine into your body which acts as a stimulant as well as depressant. Your adrenal glands also release adrenaline when you drink which contributes to the stimulant effect. Basically it feels good so you want more.

    1. To some level all recreational drugs influence neurotransmitters and the experience op described happens mostly because of the gaba+ dopamine pathways

    2. To expand on this, the mellanby effect shows increased response to alcohol on a BAC curve when it is rising, whereas the same pleasure is not experienced when it is at the same point when falling.

  2. Alcohol is generally a depressant for your brain (“a break signal” for neurons).
    At first it inhibits the activity of prefrontal cortex, which is where our rational thoughts and inhibitions work (as mentioned by others the alcohol does it via GABA receptors). That’s why you behave recklessly when you are moderately drunk.

    If you drink further other brain parts (older in evolutional sense and thus more stable) start to shut down and you are asleep.

    Edit: punctuation

  3. Without going into the neurochemical side of things (because others have somewhat covered it here, and it’s exceptionally dirty when it comes to alcohol – multiple neurotransmitter systems are involved and even the metabolites of alcohol probably have their own effects)… there are significant expectancy effects associated with alcohol. That is, you expect to feel certain things, and therefore you do. The best example of this is when you start drinking you feel far more intoxicated at say 0.75 BAC than at the same level after you have stopped drinking.

    To directly answer your question, it’d be a combination of the euphoria produced by dopamine and endorphins reinforcing the behaviour of drinking, and the idea that more is going to be good. Then there’s the positive social effects, relaxation of inhibition, conditioned cue responses, and lots more things telling you that it’s a positive experience. This is all happening under your consciousness, so unless you kick in that prefrontal cortex and decide that anothery is a bad idea, off you go.

    The other thing is that alcohol is generally consumed over time more slowly than many other drugs. Also unlike other drugs, most of us can describe what overdosing feels like, which I’m guessing is the basis for your question.

        1. One ncbi study I read somewhere stated that Curcumin helps the liver process the byproduct of alcohol Acetaldehyde.

          1. You can find some study published somewhere catalogued in NCBI to say just about anything – including a lot of quackademic medicine. Never make medical decisions on what a single publication says, but try to determine the consensus of large bodies of research; and if there is no such consensus, it’s probably not work trying to live your life around it.

          2. You’re right, but it was from that article that I went and researched more about Curcumin. The UCLA study on the development of Londvida Curcumin was very interesting.

        2. EtOH also causes dehydration by inhibiting secretion of ADH, which means your kidneys can’t retain water as well and you pee more.

          1. For the curious people EtOH is chemical formula for alcohol, and ADH is anti diuretic hormone

      1. The chemical you are thinking of is *acetaldehyde* or possibly formaldehyde, both of which are metabolites of drinking alcohol. There is no such thing as acetemalyde.

        Formaldehyde is formed via alcohol dehydrogenase from the small amount of methanol found in drinking alcohol. Acetaldehyde is formed via the same enzyme but results from the much more common ethanol found in drinking alcohol.

    1. I don’t believe you know what you’re talking about because at 0.75 BAC you have a GCS of less than 8, can’t protect your own airway and are dead without immediate intubation and ventilatory support.

        1. yeah, that’s like 3-4 beers, right?

          makes sense to me– not sure why everyone couldn’t just move that decimal over

          1. Because that wouldn’t have allowed the poster I responded to to demonstrate his superior intellect with a pedantic attitude and heavy use of jargon.

      1. BAC in the US is measured by g/dL of blood. BAC in much of Europe measures g/L of blood. So a BAC of .08 in the US is the same as a BAC of 0.8 in most of Europe.

        Also, I’ve seen someone perfectly functional at a 0.74 BAC (US standard), but that was due to severe alcohol dependency.

        Edit: Mixed up the units.

        1. I struggled with alcoholism. I’m sober now, living a recovery based life. But when I landed in the hospital my BAC would be .40. I’d be awake, not blacked out, etc.

        2. 1 dg/L is .1 g/L, so as stated, Euro measurements should have a smaller number, not larger.

          The units of a percentage are always relative to the basic unit; you will never have a percent mean one thing in one place and another thing in another.

          What you’re thinking of is that most of Europe measures blood alcohol in permilles (‰) rather than percents, and that .8 permille = .08 percent.

      2. Spend enough time in a hospital setting and you’ll see patients who are clearly drunk but only “mildly lethargic” with BACs in the 0.6-0.8 range.

        They’ll be there for something else (acute on chronic pancreatitis?), you’ll check there BAC, do a double take, re-order it, it’ll come back the same, then you’ll potentially snow them with benzos so they don’t end up withdrawing on you. Then they’ll leave AMA the next morning so they can go out and drink. Rinse and repeat the cycle until they eventually come in one day and go hepatorenal and die, or they just never come back (because they died somewhere else).

      3. I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.

        Some countries (EU for example) measure in per mille and 0.75 would just be buzzed.

          1. It’s not that fancy but definitely more expensive than the useless keychain novelty ones. It was like $130. I got it because I drink more than the average person and am paranoid about drunk driving. Looking back on it I know there were times I stayed up late watching netflix and was still buzzed when I went to work. I don’t even like driving if I’m .04 bac. So basically I just wanted to be responsible. I ended up with a decent one after lots of research on them and learning you’re really rolling the dice with cheapo models.

          2. I have the same one. Highly recommended. I’ve been keeping track of the data I get from it and it’s very reliable from test to test. Need to get it recalibrated soon.

          3. Damn that’s scary. Probably something I would have done at that age as well, but still scary.

          4. Yup, i got one as a birthday present from an aunt who thought I was an alcoholic. Threw it out once it became a game at parties.

          5. I used to work in psych/chemical dependence. Had a guy who looked stone cold sober blow a .40 (I mean he was drunk, you could smell it, he admitted to drinking a 5th for breakfast, but he didn’t look drunk at all) I imagine he could have hit .75 on more than one occasion and not had it captured. His liver was I’m sure dying bit by bit though.

          6. Oh, for sure. I worked at a shelter for a while, I’ve met a few guys that looked their worst when sober. They had a fine zone between withdrawal and fighty-drunk that they tried to maintain at all times. Generally really likeable people, but they could never hold up the veneer for long.

          7. From that page:
            In South Africa, a man driving a Mercedes-Benz Vito light van containing 15 sheep, allegedly stolen from nearby farms, was arrested on December 22, 2010, near Queenstown in Eastern Cape. His blood had an alcohol content of 1.6%. Also in the vehicle were five boys and a woman who were also arrested.[55]

          8. I can’t imagine the comedown from 1.6% Talk about alcohol withdrawal. Hope he had access to plenty of Xanax.

          9. Yeah that is insane. Former alcoholic here (or whatever not drinking anymore) and my worst was 0.74% (recorded), but I was still half conscious.

          10. A friend is an ED doc and she’d tell us stories of how the regulars would come in with .3s and .4s and still be coherent. Later, a 18 year old girl would be obliterated at .11

          11. .4 isn’t the worst either. I’ve seen nearly double that and still semi coherent

          12. Alcoholic in recovery, I’ve clocked in at just under .50, after driving myself to the hospital(I’m aware of the implications of this), and 100% coherent.

          13. If you look in that same article, there are a couple accounts, one of which says that the person was aware of where they were and who they were despite having a BAC >1%

          14. In my detox experiences, Librium was the prescribed benzo of choice, possibly because it doesn’t have the same interactions with alcohol that Xanax does. Granted, my highest BAC on record was (only?) .375, and, like others have mentioned in various cases, I appeared oddly coherent and apparently stable on my feet– at least in the detox staff’s opinion. I felt like I could collapse at any moment from shame and discomfort, but man.. that Librium was the only thing keeping me from shaking and vomiting when the WD symptoms took hold.

          15. So the guy’s blood is about as strong as session beer or small beer? Pity the vampire that gets ahold of him.

          16. For children, or after you already have a buzz on and just want to maintain, or if you want to take part in the social ritual but you need to drive. Some beers at that alcohol level are still really tasty beverages.

          17. I’m more impressed by the concept of managing to fit 15 sheep into a Merc V-class. They’re roomy, but 15? For a regular van, smaller than a transit, that seems very impressive

          18. Speaking from experience, you want to cram in sheep fairly tightly so they stay upright and don’t get thrown around during the drive

      1. Some countries, like e.g. Germany, use permille instead of percent when measuring blood alcohol. So .75 would be .075.

      1. LD50 of Alcohol is 0.40 BAC, so you’re likely dead though a very small percentage of people are able to survive it. >1.0 BAC have been recorded before

    2. Couldn’t the intoxication difference between when you start and finish drinking with the same BAC be because your body is adapting to the alcohol, or because of some sort of change in your brain? Maybe it’s not psychological.

      1. This is true. For similar reasons a steep rise in BAC following rapid drinking on an empty stomach is more associated with memory blackouts even if the slower drinking group reached higher levels.

        I.e. reaching 0.3 in one hour impairs you more than reaching 0.4 over 6 hours.

        Also the reason for some of the ‘acute withdrawal’ symptoms of hangover in non-dependent individuals.

    3. I haven’t had a drink in years. However I do notice when I get distracted and forget about my alcohol laced mouthwash, that I’ve been swishing around for several minutes, I’d swear there’s a slight ‘buzz’ similar to drinking a small amount of wine/beer.

      I don’t swallow any of the mouthwash, but I’ve been reading a lot about sublingual administration and I’m probably ‘anticipating’ something?

  4. If a question comment is against the rules let me know and I’ll delete..

    I have a follow-up question: I don’t feel the need to keep drinking more. Brown-out and black-out Alex are not really interested in drinking a ton more and just seem to want to maintain or taper off. However, I know people who when their brown out self makes an appearance they want to binge drink whatever they see and always get to the point where they need help walking. What causes this difference? It must be something subconscious or innately programmed into our brains because at brown/black-out we don’t have much logic remaining.

  5. This is a quick and dirty, with inaccuracies for simplicity… but this can give you a broad-stroke overview.

    Alcohol tends to cause your thinking to “get in a rut”. So if you are thinking about drinking (like, when you are drinking), alcohol tends to keep you in that rut.

    That’s why drinking and driving is so dangerous. You focus on something, like your speedometer, and forget to switch to checking the intersection for red lights or stop signs.

    Getting a bit deeper:

    The specific mechanism is [GABA receptor agonism](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GABA_receptor_agonist#Indirect_GABA_Agonists), or more colloquially, alcohol substitutes for GABA and stimulates the GABA receptors. A [GABA receptor](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GABA_receptor) reduces neurotransmitter propagation.

    How this plays out is that the main path, channel, or “train of thought” that you are on works just fine, but that path is less likely to spawn associated thoughts than normal.

    So when you are normally driving, when you approach a stoplight, you glance at a light, associated speed and possibilty that you’ll have to stop, check your speed, bounce back to the light, and maybe check cross traffic… just normal driving stuff.

    But when those GABA sites are overstimulated by alcohol, your brain doesn’t “change tracks” as easily. You see the light, and focus on it, forgetting to check your speed or cross traffic. Alternatively, you *do* check your speed, but forget to switch back to the light.

    So… alcohol helps you focus on what you are doing, which, right now, is drinking.

    For more in-depth, and accurate, research, check out [Scripps writeup on alcohol and GABA](https://www.scripps.edu/newsandviews/e_20020225/koob2.html).

    edit: typo

  6. Once we alter our state of conciousness we create a new self but that new self can only exist while under the influence of Alcohol. Thus to perpetuate itself it must drink more or else cease to be. Of course our new self is inherently unstable and doomed to perish

  7. I am an alcoholic, who sought treatment and am 7+ yrs. sober. The craving to keep drinking has been explained well, above. It’s the reward system.

    I only wish to add that the craving you spoke of is, in the recovery community, a clear sign of potential alcoholism. “Normies” don’t feel the need to keep drinking after a certain point. We alcoholics NEED to keep drink, often to incapacitation.

    If someone is known for being able to “hold their liquor”, drink waaaaay longer into the night/morning, and cannot imagine a weekend without alcohol, they are well on their way to big problems. Best to stay away. My consequences are awful, and I wouldn’t want anyone else to sink as low as i, if at all possible.

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