drug is one of the most commonly abused substances in the world and it has been
around for thousands of years. This drug
is so common that most people do not even consider it to be one because we are
surrounded by it at all times, whether we are at home watching a movie or
enjoying dinner at a restaurant. This
drug is alcohol.
Alcohol affects many
neurotransmitters such as dopamine pathways, serotonin pathways, GABA pathways,
and glutamate pathways. Dopamine pathways, also known as
the reward pathways, are responsible for
“incentive motivation” and they are not affected directly by alcohol. Instead, neurons from the GABA system and
endorphin system extend into the reward pathways, which causes the nucleus
accumbens to produce dopamine. The production
of dopamine results in the need for more alcohol, but the pleasure that is
associated with this ‘want’ comes from the endorphins. When there is chronic alcohol exposure, not
only will the GABA system extend its neurons, but the GABA system itself will
become altered as their is a decrease in ?1- and an increase in
?4-subunits. Alcohol exposure can also
cause extracellular glutamate levels in the striatum to drop and this is most
likely due to alterations in both NMDA receptors. The serotonin is also impacted, as it slowly
gets depleted over time, which is something that is linked with alcohol
addiction and depression.
impact on our neurotransmitters results in both short term and long term
effects. Short term effects can range
from slower brain activity, slower reflexes, and slower reaction time to
vomiting, passing out and alcohol poisoning.
Long term effects can include liver damage, alcohol addiction,
decreasing brain mass, and stomach ulcers.
Both short term and long term effects of alcohol are awful, which is why people should stay
safe and drink responsibly (or not at all).