The Effect of Alcohol on Your Mood Over Time

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Even though alcohol is relaxing, it stimulates your body to produce stress hormones. A nasty self-feeding loop can form because of this. What do I mean? One thing that causes people to want to drink is the presence of stress hormones — the feeling of stress or tension. Alcohol relieves that feeling. It is relaxing. But the following day, the after-effect of alcohol is a higher level of stress hormones.

And if the method you use to relieve that feeling is to drink alcohol, an unending cycle has been created. You're caught in a trap.

Alcohol inhibits the body's ability to make glucose from lactate. Lactate normally flows around in the blood stream and when it reaches the liver, it is resynthesized into glucose. Alcohol slows down your liver's ability to do this, which means that lactate levels rise in the blood, causing more anxiety and feelings of stress.

Lactate has a sister compound called pyruvate. When one goes up, the other generally goes down. Your anxiety level has to do with the ratio of one to the other. Higher lactate equals more anxiety. Higher pyruvate equals more ease.

The lactate to pyruvate ratio can be increased with any of these substances: sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.

So when you know someone who has a few drinks in the evening to relax, and then complains of anxiety or stress, you might want to enlighten them: They are probably worsening their feelings of anxiety and stress by drinking.

Circumstances can cause stress, of course, but your own body's reaction to the circumstances can cause more stress and anxiety than you need to put up with. And the after-effects of alcohol can cause your body to react to circumstances more stressfully, making that drink even more desirable.

For a much better way to ease stress and tension, see Peace, Love, and Oxytocin.

11 comments:

Adam Khan 1:31 AM  

Alcohol is good to give up IF you suffer too much stress. But alcohol has some relaxing benefits for those who are doing fine.

In studies on oxytocin, researchers have found that moderate amounts of alcohol raise the oxytocin level, and this may be responsible for some of the "social lubricant" qualities of alcohol. Learn more about oxytocin here: Peace, Love, and Oxytocin.

One of the many effects of oxytocin is that it reduces pain. When rats were given a moderate dose of alcohol, they had a greater tolerance to pain. But when they were given an oxytocin-blocker, the tolerance disappeared. This is convincing evidence that at least part of the effect of alcohol is oxytocin-induced.

And oxytocin is very good for your health. And it's good for your relationships.

An interesting experiment was done at a nursing home. The facility began offering their aging residents a beer every afternoon if they wanted one. Two months later, the number of residents who could walk on their own increased from 21 percent to 74 percent. The amount of measurable social interaction TRIPLED. And the number of people taking Thorazine (a tranquilizer) went from 75 percent of the residents to NONE.

Those are some nice results for something so simple and inexpensive.

No doubt you've already heard about the legendary health-benefits of drinking. Part of the healthy effect may be the increased socialization, which all by itself has been shown to be good for your health. Who knows? But my point is that alcohol is not evil. It sometimes has good effects, in the right circumstances and with the right people, and it can also have bad effects. It’s like what the congressman said on the issue of whiskey:

"If you mean the demon drink that poisons the mind, pollutes the body, desecrates family life, and inflames sinners, then I am against it. But if you mean the elixir of Christmas cheer, the shield against winter chill, the taxable potion that puts needed funds into public coffers to comfort little crippled children, then I’m for it. This is my position and I will not compromise."

If you're addicted to alcohol and it's ruining your life, alcohol is bad for you. If social drinking improves your health and makes your life more fun, and it doesn't have negative consequences, then alcohol is good for you.

The point of the article above is: If you suffer from too much chronic stress, and if you drink regularly, experiment on yourself. Go a couple months without drinking and see if that helps. If it does, keep it up. If not, try something else.

Adam Khan 11:07 PM  

Just to complete all my comments on alcohol, I have one more thing to say. My personal observation of my own moods is that alcohol lowers my mood the day after drinking, even if I have as little as two drinks. I may not have a hangover, but I still feel diminished. I'm not as happy. I don't feel as good.

For the entire next day, I'm not in as good a mood as usual and I am slightly but noticeably more easily upset by smaller things.

Just for what it's worth, that's what I find when I pay attention. And for that reason, I don't drink very often. I like to be in a good mood and I very much dislike being upset unnecessarily.

I recommend you make your own observations to discover how alcohol impacts your own moods.

Anonymous 2:39 AM  

ya it's very nice. One of the many effects of oxytocin is that it reduces pain. When rats were given a moderate dose of alcohol, they had a greater tolerance to pain. But when they were given an oxytocin-blocker, the tolerance disappeared.

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Emily 11:32 AM  

I also notice that as little as a 4 ounce glass of wine the night before can increase my anxiety level and diminish my mood the next day. I think many people who can't tolerate alcohol, like myself, are more sensitive and therefore shouldn't drink. I just avoid it altogether! I have tried, over and over again, the experiment of drinking and I always feel worse the next day and I agree that it is a negative cycle that can create dependence on alcohol and worsen one's mood, especially if you have a pre-existing mood or anxiety disorder already!

Kara 12:42 AM  

Where are these studies that ethanol increases oxytocin? Were they in humans? In breastfeeding women, ethanol decreases oxytocin release:

Coiro et al 1992
Mennella and Pepino 2006

Adam Khan 4:18 PM  

Kara, I got that information from the book, The Oxytocin Factor. The author, Kerstin Uvnas Moberg, M.D., Ph.D., is a researcher at the famed Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and the author of over four hundred scientific papers. She writes:

"Experiments with both rats and human subjects show that moderate amounts of alcohol increase the concentration of oxytocin in the blood. (Higher amounts of alcohol, however, have the opposite effect.) Therefore, the calming effect of a moderate amount of alcohol may be caused at least in part by oxytocin. When rats were given a small amount of alcohol, their tolerance for pain increased, but when they were then injected with an oxytocin antagonist, this heightened pain threshold disappeared.

"The classic oxytocin effect that facilitates the flow of breast milk is strengthened by alcohol (though for other reasons it may be inadvisable to drink alcohol while nursing). This connection is behind the old custom of giving a glass of beer to a woman who is having trouble nursing her baby. Even today, nursing mothers discuss the pros and cons of drinking beer in that context. Unfortunately, it is the alcohol in beer, rather than any other ingredient, that facilitates nursing.

"Research in recent years has revised many of our conceptions about alcohol. Among other things, a moderate consumption of alcohol, especially red wine, appears to be correlated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular illnesses. This effect may be related directly to specific substances, particularly bioflavonoids (naturally occurring flavor compounds found in fruits and vegetables and in red wine), but the oxytocin that is released under the influence of alcohol may also play a significant role."

In the back of the book, she sites two papers:

1. Lindman, R. E., et al. Hormonal covariates of socioemotional communication as a function of assertiveness, gender and alcohol. Seventh Congress of the International society for biomedical research on alcoholism. Queensland, Australia 1994.

2. Uvnas Moberg, K., et al. Low doses of ethanol may induce anti-nociceptive effects via an oxytocinergic mechanism. Acta Physiologic Scandinavica 1993:149, 117-118.

Anonymous 6:54 PM  

I feel like my experience with alcohol is different then most. When I drink, (quite heavily) I will get a decent hangover the next day. However I love the hangover the next day because it puts me in a great mood. I am extremely sociable and can crack jokes like nothin. This great mood can actually last for a couple days after, and can carry me through a week. Why do you think this is?? Is it normal?

Adam Khan 12:00 AM  

Anonymous lover of hangovers, I don't know why that is. I wonder if you've gotten used to it. Have you ever gone a month or so without drinking? And when you started again, with your system more normalized, was it any different?

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

How would you explain the reason for an increase in someone being more angry in general. They drink beer daily but have become more angry and temperment is shorter in general and stress levels are higher. Not angry to the point of hurting anyone, just short and more frustrated in general.

Adam for Fuel Competition 1:23 PM  

If the person drinks beer every day and has always done that, and drank the same amount, and yet now they have a shorter temper now, then probably something else has changed. The beer probably doesn't help, but it may not be the cause.

Anonymous 6:42 PM  

Alcohol has never made me feel cheerful or more sociable. It seems that even a small amount of alcohol makes my mood worse the next day and moderate amounts cause anxiety, stress, panic, aversion to food the entire next day. I am not talking about huge quantities of alcohol. 2 or 3 drinks causes lowered energy and mood, 5 or 6 drinks cause severe panic and anxiety. I have been doing an experiment with alcohol as a substitute for pain medication. I had been taking pain medication for about 15 years and throughout that time, never used alcohol. I had panic disorder prior to the pain medication 15 years ago, but the panic seemed to have gone away. While on very small doses of pain medication I never had a panic attack and my anxiety was almost non existent and my blood pressure was normal. Good energy. Good mood. With new government regulations, my doctors no longer prescribe pain medication, but I am still in severe pain. Thus the experiment for pain control using alcohol. Thought I might be able to find alternative for pain medication, but it doesn't seem to be working.

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