Alcohol alters the brain by interfering with the communication process between the nerves and nerve receptors. Alcohol also depresses the central nervous system. The nature of these alterations is seen in behavioral changes that vary from person to person. There can be variances in the same person from one time to another, sometimes influenced by the mood of the person prior to drinking. Generally, however, people who drink regularly develop a pattern of predictable intoxicated behavior, ranging from the well-known term of either a "happy" or "mean" drunk. The theory in rehab today is that many alcoholics use alcohol to self-medicate, meaning they are trying to cope with negative emotions or feelings by using a substance to alter their feelings of anxiety, unhappiness or depression. This past Sunday, during the memorial show for long-time journalist, Mike Wallace, his former co-workers highlighted some of Wallace's most memorable interviews. One of Mike Wallace's favorite subjects was Johnny Carson. During the interview, Carson admitted to Wallace that he "didn't handle alcohol well" and eventually had to give it up as he was not a friendly, happy person when he drank, but instead became surly and mean.
Most people enjoy the sensation of loosing up, relaxing and the buzz that comes with imbibing. But even those that feel they are just cutting loose and having fun are altered, with decreased coordination and reaction time. After a couple of drinks, it becomes more difficult to monitor impulse control and make careful choices. At that point, people are likely to drink more and without a designated driver, try to drive themselves or others home. With reduced capacity to make smart choices, the risk to themselves and others increases.
With alcohol, carelessness is always part of the equation. Whether an individual becomes aggressive, belligerant and obnoxious, or happy, laid back and sleepy, depends on their wiring. One thing certain with alcohol is that no one is immune to the brain's reaction in an induced altered state. If left to their own devices, inebriated individuals can hurt themselves or others.