This Is What Happens To Your Brain When You Get Drunk

We all know what happens when we start drinking. We relax, we become friendlier, and we become masters mediocre on the dance floor. Unfortunately, we also tend to stumble, say things we don’t really mean and eat a whole plate of onion rings without even re. Although we know what sorts of things go on during a night (or day) of flowing drinks, what is really going on inside our brains? Without going into extensive details (mainly because I don’t’ have a Ph.D. in neuroscience and would not be able to) here’s a breakdown of why we do what we do after a couple of vodka sodas.


Basically – Alcohol Affects Neurotransmitters

When you drink alcohol it starts to go to work on the neurotransmitters in your brain. It reduces the effect of excitatory neurotransmitters, which are what keeps you alert and focused. It also increases the effects of inhibitory neurotransmitters, which make you relaxed. Put these two together and you have a very sleepy stumbling adult-sized toddler. But your brain doesn’t stop there!

Along with making you uncoordinated and drowsy, alcohol also increases the levels of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a pleasure-inducing drug, one that you get from fun activities, hanging with friends, and you guessed it, that next shot of tequila. It’s what lets you know that drinking is fun and exciting, and what makes you keep knocking them back. Here’s a little bit more behind more common drunk behaviors.

Why do I fall down every time I try to dance?

Alcohol affects your cerebellum, the center of the brain that is responsible for balance and coordination. This is why simple acts such as walking, standing, even sitting may start to get much harder at the end of the night. It’s also why your dance moves may not be as precise as you think they are.

Why did I say that?

Often times we wake up thinking, oh my god did I really say/do that? The cerebral cortex is the part of your brain that control decision-making and judgment, and is affected after a couple of drinks. This is why we sometimes blurt out something embarrassing or spend $25 on tacos after the bar. When you’re drunk you lose inhibitions along with the ability to plan ahead. Great for getting the courage to talk to your crush, maybe not so great for your bank account after you decide to buy a round for everyone.

Why does everyone look like a Hollister model?

You’re at a party and see the CUTEST guy across the room. You’re dying to go over there and get your hands on him but your friends are assuring you that he is less Chris Hemsworth and more middle-aged dad at a barbecue. So why do we tend to pounce on anyone we see when we drink? Alcohol affects the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, the centers for hormone release. With nothing holding them back, your hormones are free to lust after whoever they choose, and yes sometimes that may be the guy in socks and sandals.

Why do I need Pizza?

You usually eat healthily but after a party you’ve never wanted a quesadilla more in your entire life, what is that? Your body is trying to process the alcohol in your system, which means the medulla is conserving energy by slowing down breathing, heart rate, and temperature. This translates to fatigue, and your brain automatically tries to get alerted again by means of energy-rich food, i.e. carbs. But be careful, if you drink too much your body slows down its functions even more, which can be life-threatening.

At the end of the day, drink responsibility. Don’t drink so much that you can’t remember the night before, and include water in your night to avoid the dreaded hangover. Although drinking affects the brain in these few ways, excessive drinking can lead to addiction and more serious damage. I hope reading this gives you a little more insight into how alcohol affects your body and your brain. If anything, now you can blame your bad dance moves on your medulla and keep rocking out without a care.




Zoe Munsey

Editorial Contributor, Seattle University Minor: Spanish Her heart belongs to:Harry Potter, chocolate, and Broadway musicals Take her away to: any hike ending in a waterfall, any local farmers market, or any music festival

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