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Beer gardens, frat parties...school is back in session

January 4, 2010

Torah Kachur

I'm a big fan of the show Mad Men - where 1960's ad execs drink all day, pregnant women drink all day, everyone drinks all day. Fun. That isn't why I'm a fan of the show but alcohol is pretty much a daily and hourly routine in their lives.

Now, we get constant lectures on the dangers of alcohol - alcohol poisoning, coma, liver damage, brain damage, fetal alcohol syndrome...and the list goes on. Yet, a glass of red wine is a good antioxidant, moderate alcohol consumption is good for your heart, lowers the risk of diabetes, lowers cholesterol, protects against dementia.

Aaahhh... where does that leave us? Is alcohol bad for your body? Most importantly, does it make you dumber? (we all know it makes us hotter).
The immediate effects of alcohol on the brain are obvious, and I assume I don't have to describe what it means to be drunk. Alcohol affects chemical synapses in the brain - it prevents excitatory nerve pathway firing and enhances GABA-related inhibitory signaling, making you sluggish, uncoordinated and, well, drunk.

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The long term effects are much more important than just a measly hangover - turns out that adolescent brains (18 or under) are much more susceptible to long term memory loss and brain damage from binge drinking than their adult counterparts. Of course, these studies were done in rats, but a pissed-drunk 15 year old and a rat are often hard to distinguish.

Don't worry, I'm not going to get all preachy on you. It is the first week of University and parties are everywhere. Enjoy, imbibe, but do so with knowledge - however you wish to use it.

Oh - and there is still no cure for a hangover (rest, water, pepto)

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