Addiction & Substance Overuse
How Holiday Drinking Can Hurt Your Thinking
Tis’ the season to eat, drink and be merry. As we celebrate the holidays we often find ourselves joyously hopping from party to party with more and more cocktails being consumed. We all know how lousy we feel after a night of binge drinking, defined as more than three drinks within a three-hour period. We experience dehydration, our voices become raspy, we get headaches, feel sluggish, our skin may break out and our appearance just seems worn out. Whether it’s champagne, wine, egg nog, spirits or beer, consumption is higher during this festive time of year. The question is how does all of this holiday drinking hurt our thinking? What are the effects of binge drinking on the brain and what can we do to enjoy a few holiday cocktails without it having terrible (and even embarrassing) consequences?
Personality changes. Who we are sober may change significantly with alcohol. When we consume alcohol there’s a quick increase in dopamine, a brain neurochemical responsible for that “high” feeling that makes a typically shy person hit the dance floor. When you exceed three drinks over a three-hour period, there’s simply more alcohol entering the bloodstream significantly reducing inhibitions. This explains how a calm, even-tempered person will become angry and even pick fights when inebriated.
Inappropriate or “bad behaviors.” This is the personality change taken to another less appealing level. Behaviors such as drunk-texting, making sexual advances toward co-workers or friend’s spouses, physical altercations, even drunk driving come into play. When you stick to two drinks over a three-hour period with a glass of water in between, you remain much more in control. What’s interesting to note too is that a lot of people use alcohol as a justification for the bad behaviors they really want to live out when sober. There’s the expression, “A drunk person’s words are a sober person’s thoughts.” Not wanting to reach out to an ex at 2 am could serve as big motivation to limit your booze intake.
Slurred speech. When you have more to drink, alcohol begins to impact the central nervous system and it’s communication to the brain. It doesn’t take a whole lot of alcohol for a shift in speech to take place. Information going from the brain to the mouth is impaired on a neurological level. What’s more alarming here is that the more a person binge drinks, the more quickly speech becomes slurred. Slurred speech is more of a symptom of cumulative affect of alcohol on the brain.