Thisdrug is one of the most commonly abused substances in the world and it has beenaround for thousands of years. This drugis so common that most people do not even consider it to be one because we aresurrounded by it at all times, whether we are at home watching a movie orenjoying dinner at a restaurant. Thisdrug is alcohol. Alcohol affects manyneurotransmitters such as dopamine pathways, serotonin pathways, GABA pathways,and glutamate pathways. Dopamine pathways, also known asthe reward pathways, are responsible for”incentive motivation” and they are not affected directly by alcohol. Instead, neurons from the GABA system andendorphin system extend into the reward pathways, which causes the nucleusaccumbens to produce dopamine. The productionof dopamine results in the need for more alcohol, but the pleasure that isassociated with this ‘want’ comes from the endorphins.
When there is chronic alcohol exposure, notonly will the GABA system extend its neurons, but the GABA system itself willbecome altered as their is a decrease in ?1- and an increase in?4-subunits. Alcohol exposure can alsocause extracellular glutamate levels in the striatum to drop and this is mostlikely due to alterations in both NMDA receptors. The serotonin is also impacted, as it slowlygets depleted over time, which is something that is linked with alcoholaddiction and depression. Alcoholsimpact on our neurotransmitters results in both short term and long termeffects. Short term effects can rangefrom slower brain activity, slower reflexes, and slower reaction time tovomiting, 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 staysafe and drink responsibly (or not at all).