From social gatherings, sporting events to religious ceremonies, people have been drinking alcohol throughout history. In fact, evidence suggests that cavemen intentionally fermented fruits and grains to make alcoholic beverages. Nevertheless, although we may never know exactly where, when, or how it all started, the simple fact remains that people all over the world continue to drink alcohol to this day.
Initially, in moderation, alcohol can make you feel more outgoing, but in excess, it can essentially hold you back from wanting to go anywhere or be near anyone at all. So, before you got out and indulge in another glass of your favorite Zinfandel from New Zealand or perhaps try and cool off with an ice-cold pint of Guinness at the Irish pub around the corner, you may want to take the time to carefully consider some of the potential side-effects of drinking alcohol, especially how it can affect your mood, judgment, and energy levels.
As a professional addiction counselor and interventionist, I have worked with a lot of good people over the past twenty years who have found themselves doing a lot of bad and questionable things while under the influence of alcohol. Approximately 28% of all traffic-related fatalities in the United States involved alcohol-impaired drivers, and according to the World Health Organization, approximately 55% of perpetrators of domestic violence drank alcohol prior to the assault.
Although each case may have a unique set of circumstances, many of the underlying factors leading to alcohol abuse remain the same. For example, most people who have experienced alcohol abuse issues started off by drinking recreationally—in other words, drinking once in a while and at specific events. Then, over a period of time and with continued use, they developed a tolerance for it, meaning that more and more alcohol was needed to achieve the desired effect, such as intoxication.
Furthermore, given the impact of alcohol on the central nervous system with prolonged use, your body can actually become dependent on it to function, albeit dysfunctionally.
Many of my clients who have suffered from alcohol dependence have often reported that they needed to have a drink of alcohol just to get out of bed so that they could steady their nerves and get unstuck. As a result, alcoholics tend to spend a significant amount of time and energy making sure that an ample supply of alcohol is readily available, while at the same time, significantly reducing time spent engaging in more productive and healthy daily activities, such as work, personal hygiene, proper nutrition, exercise, and interpersonal relationships.
Concerning statistics aside, the reality is that alcohol use is not going away anytime soon. Prohibition is not coming back. Therefore, in my opinion, it is important to learn how to live with it rather than trying to vilify its presence or simply pretending that the problem does not exist, whether you are interested in having a drink or not.
With that being said and without trying to ruin anyone’s upcoming party plans, if you are focused on the importance of maintaining control over your mood, judgment, and level of energy, hopefully, you are also ready to take a closer look at how alcohol can affect your body.
1. Alcohol Increases Risk of Depression
To start off with how alcohol affects the body, alcohol is classified as a depressant because it appears to reduce arousal and stimulation of the central nervous system. Although it may initially elevate your mood as it begins to interact with dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain, over a period of time, with continued use and your emotional defenses down, you can end up feeling overwhelmingly depressed as the alcohol begins to deplete those chemicals from your brain, leaving you considerably more vulnerable to emotional distress.
Similar to the chemical version of a self-destructive self-fulfilling prophecy, the more alcohol you drink, the more depressed you feel and, therefore, the less active you become as your energy level is depleted.
2. Alcohol Reduces Your Energy Level
There are a variety of ways in which drinking alcohol reduces your energy level. First and foremost, alcohol initially raises your blood sugar level, then as insulin is released into your bloodstream, your blood sugar level rapidly decreases, making you feel weak. Although you are taking in plenty of fluids when you drink alcohol, you will typically find yourself urinating more frequently as your kidneys are working overtime to flush the alcohol out of your body. This then leads to dehydration, which in turn depletes your level of energy as an overabundance of vital minerals and nutrients are flushed away.
Furthermore, alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce the level of melatonin in your body, which is a critical element in regulating your circadian rhythm, thereby interfering with your internal sleep-wake cycle. And without an adequate amount of rest, your endurance and stamina will decrease if your body is unable to recharge.
3. Alcohol Reduces Your Reaction Time
So, with all that being said, alcohol does not actually make you feel depressed simply by drinking it, but rather alcohol slows down messages between the brain and the body. It essentially reduces your reaction time.
At first, you may feel more active and engaged, then after continued drinking, you may begin to feel more lethargic and unbalanced as you depress your central nervous system with continued consumption. Recent studies have shown that alcohol has actually been directly linked to changes in brain chemistry and composition with little or no medicinal benefit at all.
4. Alcohol Reduces Your Inhibitions
Nevertheless, not all of the effects of alcohol are necessarily bad, at least not right away. In moderation, alcohol has been known to reduce your inhibitions in relation to your declining reaction time. In other words, with alcohol, your brain may not necessarily have enough time to effectively process anxiety that you might have otherwise experienced in a similar situation without it, for example, meeting new people at a party or perhaps even spending time with your in-laws. Unfortunately, however, reducing your inhibitions can also reduce your ability to know when it is okay to have another drink, which can ultimately lead to lapses in judgment.
5. Alcohol Impairs Your Judgment
Recent studies have shown that prolonged alcohol use can actually alter the structure of the brain, especially in the area of the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for judgment and reasoning. As a result, there is a strong correlation between alcohol abuse and making bad decisions, such as driving under the influence and drinking on the job. Furthermore, alcohol is considered a gateway drug because using it can lead you down the path to using even more potent mood-altering substances since your judgment is impaired.
Additionally, given the fact that most of us are hard-working people who need to provide both financially and emotionally, we have to be able to move swiftly and with precision when the opportunity presents itself, while at the same time, we have to be able to provide love and attention to the people that we care about. So, without actually avoiding a fun night out with your friends, you might want to simply reconsider ordering another cocktail at the club, especially if you want to stay far away from all of the potentially unpleasant consequences associated with poor judgment, such as legal, financial, medical, and family issues.
In conclusion, most people who have a drink every so often will more than likely never experience any serious consequences associated with alcohol abuse. Some may not even be aware of how alcohol affects their bodies. Nevertheless, educating yourself on the potential impact of regular alcohol use may, in fact, prevent that from actually happening.
So, whether or not you condone or condemn drinking adult alcoholic beverages, the reality is that alcohol has been around for thousands of years, and there are no plans that I am aware of to stop making it as it continues to be served all over the world at family gatherings, sporting events, religious ceremonies, or almost everywhere you look. Nevertheless, given the fact that drinking alcohol can directly impact your mood, judgment, and energy level, I firmly believe that everyone should be aware of the effect that it can have on you before consuming it.
Although alcohol can reduce your inhibitions, making you feel just a little more outgoing and engaging, with an initial artificial boost of energy, over time, and with continued use, it can lead to bouts of depression as it impairs your judgment and depletes your energy level.
More Articles on How Alcohol Affects the Body
- 4 Effects You Didn’t Know Alcohol Had on Your Brain
- How Even Moderate Drinking May Negatively Affect Your Brain
Featured photo credit: Taylor Brandon via unsplash.com
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|||^||National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Alcohol’s Interactions With Circadian Rhythms|
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