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Why drinking alcohol feels good?

Alcohol usually provide a good and fun feeling for many people. There is a diversity of reasons for that: advertisements show that drinking is fun, social, and even glamorous. Then, we often start drinking with friends, so there will be a sense of belonging,

connection, and friendship attached to the act of drinking alcohol. Another interesting reason is linked to the science under the alcohol effects on the brain. Drinking alcohol provokes the release of neurotransmitters, including dopamine.

What is dopamine?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays a key role in regulating mood, pleasure, motivation, and reward. It makes us feel good, happy, content, or even euphoric when we consume it. Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters involved in various neurological and psychological processes like addiction, for instance. Imbalances in dopamine may contribute to a range of mental health disorders and neurological conditions, including depression, ADHD, addictions, schizophrenia, and OCD.

Process in the brain and the feel good

This is what happens when you consume a drink (or even when you’re anticipating that you’ll have the drink as you can have a small dopamine release just knowing you'll have alcohol in the near future):

  1. Dopamine Release: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with pleasure, reward, and motivation. When you consume alcohol, it can lead to an increase in dopamine release. This surge in dopamine can create feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and happiness, contributing to the sensation of having fun.

  2. Reduced Inhibition: Alcohol also affects the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for inhibiting certain behaviours

. As alcohol impairs the functioning of this part of the brain, it can reduce inhibitions, making people feel more sociable, less anxious, and more willing to engage in activities they might not consider when sober. This can lead to a sense of fun and adventurousness.

  1. Enhanced Sociability: Alcohol can boost feelings of sociability and confidence, making it easier for people to interact with others in social settings. This can lead to a sense of fun and enjoyment as people become more relaxed and open.

  2. Stress Reduction: Alcohol can temporarily relieve stress and anxiety, which can contribute to the perception of having fun. Many people use alcohol as a way to unwind and relax after a long day or in social situations to alleviate social anxiety.

  3. Pleasure Reinforcement: The pleasurable effects of alcohol can reinforce the desire to consume it again in the future. This positive reinforcement can lead to repeated alcohol use, as individuals associate alcohol with pleasurable experiences.

Individual responses to alcohol can vary greatly, and some people may be more susceptible to its pleasurable effects than others. For some, it may make them very excited and provide them with a warm happy feeling, for some it may relieve some pain or uncomfortable feelings and thoughts, and for others, it may alleviate deep boredom or anxiety. For a lot of people, it may even provide all those effects combined.

It's important to note that while alcohol can initially produce feelings of fun and euphoria, excessive or chronic alcohol use may most likely have negative consequences on physical and mental health, leading to addiction, impaired decision-making, and a range of health problems.

This short article explains why alcohol feels inherently good at first. In our next articles, we’ll explain what exactly is happening in the brain, and then how it starts to change over time when tolerance and dependence increase.


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