What Happened In My Brain?

“That’s my last drink!” How many times have you heard that come out of your mouth?

Unfortunately, that “last drink” doesn’t become the final drink forever. The real problem isn’t your desire to quit. You really do want to quit forever. The real problem is that you’ve altered some of the normal functioning of your brain, often called the “reward pathway.”

To understand how alcohol changes the brain’s “normal” functioning, we have to learn about two critical elements of the complex reward pathway.

  • Neurotransmitters – The chemicals in your brain that communicate information. You may have heard of serotonin or norepinephrine. When discussing alcohol’s impact on the brain, the critical neurotransmitters involved are dopamine and GABA.
  • Neuroreceptors – These specialized components are involved with the initiating, sending, receiving, and coordinating of neurotransmitters. Alcohol specifically affects a neuroreceptor called GABAA, and one of its critical functions deals with dopamine.