Alcohol Doesn’t Help You Forget

Alcohol Doesn’t Help You Forget
Sara Clemente

Written and verified by psychologist and journalist Sara Clemente.

Last update: 13 October, 2022

Although there’s still a popular belief that alcohol is a good way to forget your problems, it’s time to put this myth to rest. Drinking to forget is a terrible and useless idea. On top of being very harmful to your body, it’s very ineffective. This psychoactive drug doesn’t help you forget bad experiences, it does the complete opposite. According to new scientific discoveries, alcohol helps consolidate events into your memory. The things you’ve experienced cannot be changed. 

Alcohol is a chemical substance which has effects on the body that vary as time passes. It has an effect on many neurotransmitter systems and brain structures, overriding the central nervous system. It causes serious health problems in the short, medium, and long-term. How exactly does alcohol affect us?

Why are we so vulnerable to alcohol?

Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is a drug which enters the bloodstream quickly. In addition, cell membranes have a very high permeability to it, which means that these molecules pass through them very easily. Once it’s in the bloodstream, alcohol can spread easily through every tissue in the body.

Alcohol takes between 30 and 90 minutes to reach the bloodstream after being ingested. This drug accelerates the transformation of glycogen into glucose, which is eliminated quicker. As a result, blood sugar levels decrease which makes you feel weak and exhausted.

An alcoholic woman passed out.

Biphasic effects of alcohol

When you drink an alcoholic beverage, the effects don’t manifest immediately. This is because it affects us in a biphasic way. That is, in 2 phases which generate completely contrary symptoms.

At first, you experience relaxation, joy, euphoria and lose your inhibitions. Later, as time goes by, depending on the amount and when you had the drink, other effects may appear. For example, blurred vision, dizziness, and coordination problems. Why does this occur?

How does alcohol affect the brain?

Alcohol is as a powerful depressant of the central nervous system. This means that it slows down the activity of the brain and spinal cord. It acts upon the reticular formation, the cerebral cortex, and the cerebellum, among countless other systems. It’s believed to affect the brain in 3 stages:

  • At first, it affects the most primitive and anterior cerebral region – the forebrain. This impairs both motor coordination and the decision-making process.
  • Next, it attacks the mid brain. This means you lose the ability to control your emotions and have a greater chance of losing consciousness.
  • Finally, it hits the brain stem, affecting the heart rate, body temperature, appetite, and consciousness. At this stage, the body may enter a comatose state.

As you can see, excessive consumption causes loss of consciousness. And if the consumption is extremely high, even death by ethyl poisoning or cardiac arrest are possible.

Its mistaken conception as an antidepressant

Many people turn to alcohol when they’re feeling depressed. They think its consumption will help halt feelings of deep sadness. Since it acts as a brain inhibitor, it allows people to stop being aware of their own mood. They enter a state in which they feel no pain, no grief, and no anger. This makes alcohol an attractive drug, especially for people who are emotionally vulnerable.

Recently, a study was published in the journal Translational Psychiatry. It stated that excessive alcohol intake not only doesn’t help erase memories, but it aids memory retention. That is, drinking alcohol moderately is not good for the body. So if science proves that it doesn’t work like some people think it does, then drinking is even less worthwhile.

Alcohol consumption is not the solution! It won’t help you solve your problems or end your conflicts. Nor will it give you the strength or courage to take control of your life. Quite the opposite. Taking refuge in alcohol will only prolong the suffering. And not only yours, but the suffering of everyone around you.

An upset man is smoking.

Long-term consequences

The long-term effects of alcohol consumption are truly catastrophic. Regular drinking can cause damage to every organ in the body.

  • It causes lesions in the frontal lobe of the brain and even a decrease in the brain’s size and volume.
  • Alcohol favors the non-absorption of thiamine (vitamin B1), which participates in cerebral oxygenation and the metabolism of glucose. These conditions can lead to what is known as Wernike’s syndrome, encephalopathy and, ultimately, to Korsakoff’s syndrome.
  • In addition to this serious brain damage, it also affects the peripheral nerves, leading to irreversible consequences.
  • Alcohol interferes with the processing of new information and also affects one’s visual-spatial functioning.
  • It’s common for drinking too much to cause severe sleep disorders.
  • It reduces sexual desire or causes infertility and erectile dysfunction.
  • It leads to dangerous levels of dehydration and prevents the body from producing white and red blood cells. This causes anemia and memory alterations of varying durations.
  • Alcohol increases blood pressure. In turn, high blood pressure can cause serious damage to the heart muscle, weakening it. Thus, it loses the ability to adequately pump blood to every part of the body.
  • Ethanol irritates the organs and causes numerous diseases, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis. In addition, it’s so toxic that it can cause cancer of the stomach, larynx, esophagus, or pancreas.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.