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Effects of Alcoholism on Behavior

author image Danielle Hall
Based in Southern California, Danielle Hall has been researching and writing in the area of health behaviors since 2007. Her area of expertise is health disparity reduction through behavioral change. Hall holds a Master of Science in psychology and a Ph.D. in psychology from Walden University.
Effects of Alcoholism on Behavior
A bartender pours several shots at a bar. Photo Credit: Jag_cz/iStock/Getty Images

Alcohol is often a big part of social gatherings and can create feelings of euphoria, but when consumed impulsively, the effects can quickly turn negative. Alcohol has a direct impact on the brain, which then in turn affects behavior in a number of ways that can lead to a reduced quality of life.

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Alcohol impacts behavior in variety of ways. For one, alcoholics are more likely to attempt or complete suicide, according to a January 2006 article published in “Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica.” They are more likely to have poor interpersonal relationships, live alone, have higher levels of aggression and impulsivity, and have an overall negative outlook on life. The acute effects of alcohol consumption lead to disinhibited behavior, according to an article published in May 2008 in the “British Journal of Pharmacology.” Essentially, people are more likely to do things they normally would not while under the influence of alcohol.


According to the alcohol disinhibition theory, alcohol intoxication is said to impact behavior by affecting inhibition tendencies, according to the “British Journal of Pharmacology” researchers. When alcohol is consumed, it clouds the ability to judge behavior and consider the consequences. For example, alcohol has a numbing effect on the feelings that would normally keep a person from engaging in antisocial behaviors.


When alcohol is consumed compulsively, as opposed to controlled social drinking, the neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for feelings of rewards and stress are interrupted, according to the researchers in the “British Journal of Pharmacology.” Also, the lipids, or fats, in membranes inside of signaling substances in the brain are changed, thereby impairing communication throughout the central nervous system.


Neurotransmitters as well as neuropeptides, chemical signalers and signaling proteins, respectively, are the processes affected during the initial effects of alcohol consumption. One particular neurotransmitter called dopamine is known to be affected by alcohol consumption shortly after ingestion, according to the researchers in the “British Journal of Pharmacology.” However, following long-term, chronic alcohol abuse, essentially all of the signaling substances in the brain are altered, thereby affecting behavior.


A major area impacted in the brain by alcohol is the frontal cortex, according to the book “Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology.” The frontal lobes are responsible for higher order thought processes such as decision making and reasoning. Alcohol is known to have a depressing effect on this area, as the authors explain.

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