Alcohol

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  • Alcohol
    • Mode of action
      • depresses brain activity by making GABA more effective
        • decreases dopamine
      • reduces effectiveness of inhibitory mechanisms that allow us to behave in a socially acceptable way
      • slows down messages transmitted between neurons
      • anaesthetises nerve endings at noradrenalin synapses which triggers the fight-flight mechanism (becomes less effective)
      • dilates skin blood vessels
      • blocks hormone that controls urination
    • Short term effects
      • warm and flushed
      • slurred speech
      • slower reaction times
      • relaxed and confident bevaviour
      • vomiting
      • slower heart rate
      • as blood alcohol level falls, urination increases
        • dehydration
          • main cause of hangovers as brain loses up to 1/5 of weight
      • affects co-ordination and motor skills
    • Tolerance
      • short term tolerance develops quickly
        • individual feels sober before they actually are
      • alcohol consumption stimulates body to produce an enzyme that breaks it down faster
      • in a few weeks, a drinker will need to consume around 50% more alcohol to achieve the same effect
      • behavioural tolerance is largely a result of practice
        • individual becomes more used to the effects and acting less drunk
    • Physical Dependence
      • lack of concern for amount of alcohol consumed
      • alcoholics want to start drinking early in the day to avoid withdrawal symptoms
      • first drink gets rid of symptoms and fuels psychological dependency
      • need is constant
    • Psychological Dependence
      • exhibited by getting relief at finding a drink or avoiding dry situations
      • getting alcohol is put above other activities
      • welcomes 'alcoholic oblivion' as a coping strategy
    • Withdrawal
      • depends on level of use and addiction
      • symptoms usually appear 8 - 12 hours after last drink
      • symptoms can last up to 48 hours
      • agitated
      • uncontrollable shaking
      • cramp
      • nausea
      • sweating
      • irregular heartbeat
      • vivid dreaming
      • people with a heavy addiction experience delirium tremens - can happen whilst still drinking
      • unless enough alcohol is consumed to depress brain activity, fight-flight mechanism starts operating at too high a level
        • produces hallucinations, delusions, and tremors

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