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Your Brain on Drugs: Alcohol

Alcohol one of the most commonly used in abuse 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 the ingestion of one simple substance so drastically changed not only your actions but thoughts and perception as alcohol enters the body and makes its 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 while inhibitory neurons use gaba the yin and yang if you will much like the zeros 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 perceive less notice less and remember less in conjunction the increased gaba rushes 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 an epileptic seizure there would 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 momentous attitude of a drunk often repeating the same idea or proclamation over and over thinking clearly about almost nothing hmm God a burning question you want answered ask if in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe for more weekly science videos