Friday, November 30, 2012

Ups and Downs

In light of Lindsay Lohan's latest drunken escapades - punching a woman in the face at a New York club on Thursday - I want to talk about boundaries.

You can love your alcohol ... just don't LOVE your alcohol. Know what I mean?

But for some of us, there might not be a choice. The Telegraph is reporting that there's actually a big difference between the way some people handle alcohol when it comes to our moods. (Like we needed a study to tell us this?!)

Alcohol has both stimulating and depressive effects and we don't all respond to it the same way. For some of us, drinking makes us happy. And for others, it makes us depressed. And for those of us who find alcohol stimulating and fun (check, check) ... there's a much greater chance of developing a problem. (Assuming of course this refers to early-on drinking enjoyment. Because once addiction sets in, depression is the norm.)

The study by the University of Chicago followed 200 people. They were divided between heavy and light drinkers. Light drinkers were people who had between one and five drinks every week. And heavy drinkers were those who chugged back 10-40 drinks a week (whoa!) with at least one 'binge.' I've always been under the impression that binging was five drinks on one occasion. But in this case, it's defined as having five drinks in less than two hours ... sort of like my wine-soaked lunch date this week.  (Kidding!! Or at least half kidding ... ;) You do the math.)

In the study, everyone was given three drinks that were flavored similarly. One had a low alcohol content, the second a high alcohol content and the third was a placebo containing no alcohol at all. The subjects weren't even told that this was a study about drinking.

After enjoying these free refreshments in the name of science, all subjects were asked to rate their moods.

The light drinkers reported that they felt "sedated" and "sluggish." The heavy drinkers on the other hand ... reported feeling "positive" and "rewarded" (in layman's terms 'Yay! Another please ... hic!')

The findings suggest those of us who don't find alcohol pleasurable are much more likely to become dependent on it. Go figure.

Researchers aren't exactly sure what contributes to these differences, but I'll take a wild guess. Pleasure receptors. According to The Chemical Carousel, the award-winning book by Dirk Hanson, some humans - and even certain primates - have evolved with pleasure receptors that are so sensitive to alcohol, at least some form of dependence is almost inevitable.

I'm definitely in the big-time pleasure receptor human/primate category. Which is why I've had to learn to adapt my lifestyle to drinking patterns that help control the mysterious and powerful relationship between brains and booze.

Having said that, Happy Friday! Enjoy!

Sources:
The Telegraph article about moods and drinking
The Chemical Carousel by Dirk Hanson
A play-by-play of Lindsay Lohan's latest brain chemistry experiments ...