Too Much Inhibition

Many people are held down by too much inhibition that leaves them socially isoldated against their will. They do not prefer the use of alcohol as a medication to feel free of inhibition for some time. What about alternative and healthy drugs that free inhibition.

Need a drink to loosen up? New research has found other ways to drown your inhibitions.

Nearly everyone has taken a stiff belt to shake inhibition. Whether you're mustering the courage to cut loose on the dance floor, approach someone gorgeous, or make a point at a dinner party, a glass of wine can loosen lips and hips while eliminating self-doubt. But our sudden confidence can't be explained by intoxication alone, which is just the result of alcohol interfering with nerve signals. Recent research suggests drink does much more than make us stupid or incautious: It boosts levels of a brain chemical that calms anxious thoughts. And these findings indicate that there may be other drugs that can achieve the same effect without booze.

Scientists have been turning up links between anxiety and alcoholism for a couple of decades, though few had spent much time figuring out how the two are related. A couple of years ago, Subhash Pandey, PhD, a neuroscientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, began offering rats a drink—rats that had been bred to dislike alcohol and others bred to crave it. After analyzing a section of the rats' brains known as the amygdala—it's where emotions are processed—Pandey found that the drinkers were suspiciously low in a protein called CREB that helps nourish key neurotransmitters in the amygdala. Pandey theorized that when the rats—and by extension, humans—are low in CREB, those neurotransmitters wither, and communication between neurons suffers. The outward result is anxiety, driving the urge to hit the bottle—hard.

To test his theory, Pandey monitored brain activity in alcoholic rats as they drank. Sure enough, soon after the first sip of alcohol, CREB levels shot up and anxious behavior subsided. Next he injected the rats with a chemical that boosted CREB function, and, magically, the rats drank much less. To complete his test, he injected alcohol-avoiding rats with a substance that blocked CREB function. Right on cue, the teetotaling rats became anxious and began hitting the alcohol-containing bottle.

Pandey's focus has been alcoholism, but he believes that even casual drinkers may be unconsciously seeking a CREB boost. "Without question, mildly low levels of CREB could explain the kind of anxiety seen in inhibition," he says. Other research points to nonalcoholic means of triggering this brain protein, including regular exercise, music, and antidepressants like Prozac. In one study, a beta-blocker called propranolol—it's favored by performers and public speakers—helped raise levels of a CREB-related gene. Pandey believes his results will lead to more effective alcoholism treatment. But the findings can also help anyone looking to shed their shy ways. And it's nice to have alternatives to alcohol, especially for those of us who have ever blurred the line between loss of inhibition and loss of control.

When you drink alcohol, it is thought to raise levels of GABA in the brain. GABA is one of the brain’s chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, that helps you to feel relaxed, and it aids in lowering anxiety and stress. GABA is considered to be an “inhibitory” neurotransmitter. High levels of GABA cause your body temperature to drop, and your heart rate and blood pressure to come down.

Alcohol also increases levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is one of the chemical messengers responsible for sending signals of pleasure. When levels of dopamine are elevated, it can create the “high” or “buzz” that makes alcohol pleasurable to drink.

Alcohol also jacks up the amount of norepinephrine present in the brain; this neurotransmitter acts as a stimulant, Psychology Today publishes. Elevated levels of norepinephrine increase arousal and excitement, and it can lower your inhibitions and increase impulsivity, making it hard for you to consider potential consequences of your actions.

Alcohol also decreases some of the activity of the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is what helps you to think clearly and rationally, and it is involved in your decision making abilities. When you drink, alcohol makes it harder for the prefrontal cortex to work as it should, disrupting decision-making and rational thought. In this way, alcohol prompts you to act without thinking about your actions.

Alcohol reduces the functions of the behavioral inhibitory centers in the brain, Forbes reports. It also slows down how information is processed in the brain. When you see, hear, taste, or smell something, your brain processes this information and then tells you how to think or feel. Alcohol interferes with this process, making it harder for you to work out what you are feeling and also making you less likely to be able to really think through potential consequences.

The prefrontal cortex part of the brain is partly responsible for your sense of control over your emotions and behaviors, impacting willpower and even aggressive thoughts and actions. It can enhance emotions you are already feeling and make it harder for you to gauge when enough is enough. When you drink, you may be less able to control your emotions; you may speak and act without thinking; and situations may get out of hand faster than they would if you weren’t drinking.


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