Effect of Alcohol on the Brain


Direct Effect of Alcohol on the Brain

Alcohol affects the brains chemistry by changing the levels of neurotransmitters ( the brain’s chemical messengers i.e. dopamine, acetylcholine, there are many more) in your brain. Alcohol effects both stimulating and depressing neurotransmitters. Alcohol is both water and lipid soluble; it goes everywhere. Most drugs are site specific, affecting only 1 or possibly 2 particular neurotransmitters. If you think in military terms, think of alcohol as a hand grenade and cocaine as a sniper when it come to affect.

Stimulating Effects of Alcohol on the Brain

Dopamine, an excitatory neurotransmitter, is released more abundantly when alcohol (ETOH) is present. Dopamine is the same neurotransmitter that is released when we do anything pleasurable, take drugs, have sex, or receive a big pay increase at work. Dopamine makes us feel good.

Sedating Effect of Alcohol on the Brain

Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter. It increases brain awareness and activity. Alcohol suppresses Guatemala. The result is slowed brain activity. GABA is another neurotransmitter. It slows things down in the brain. Alcohol increases GABA production.

Combined Effect of Alcohol on the Brain

As an organism alcohol slows us down while also increasing our sense of pleasure.

What Parts of our Brain are Most Effected by Alcohol

Medulla: the leader of our autonomic nervous systems. When this is slowed down, everything else gets slowed down. The Medulla controls breathing, the main reason alcohol can kill us is that in an overdose condition, the Medulla stops telling us to breathe.

Hypothalamus & Pituitary: Alcohol messes up our hormone production. More importantly, it depresses areas in the Hypothalamus that control sexual arousal and performance. The urge to have ex remains, but performance is drastically reduced. The most common manifestation is the inability to orgasm, not the ability to get and erection (for men).

Cerebellum: If you are staggering and slurring your speech it is because your cerebellum isn’t working right with all the alcohol.

Cerebral Cortex: This is where higher brain functions occur. Alcohol lowers a persons inhibitions, it reduces the amount of information our brains can manage. The things that make you a person, as opposed to just another animal, happen in the Cerebral Cortex.


When you are really hammered, the effect of alcohol on the brain is:

Alcohol = Hand Grenade

Binge Drinking
Quit drinking on your own