Why do we consume alcohol despite its harmful effects?
Does the social context carry more weight than one's own well-being?
When ingested in low doses, alcohol produces a disinhibiting and calming effect. Furthermore, it does not have a specific molecular target, and sets in motion pleasant neurochemical mechanisms. Our brain likes its effect. However, if the dose is increased, the opposite happens, and it has depressive effects.
Alcohol is like any other type of drug, except more widespread and accepted. It is important to contextualise the importance of social behaviour in its consumption. For example, in the case of adolescents, alcohol, in addition to producing the aforementioned disinhibiting effects, brings people closer together and encourages personal relationships. Not drinking at a party can be frowned upon, and it often leads to the marginalisation of those who do not drink. On the other hand, alcohol consumption is quite common in the Mediterranean diet, as is the case with beer or wine, especially when accompanied by food or snacks. It is socially accepted and, moreover, has no repercussions.
There is also the fact that the problem with alcohol is not immediate, but occurs after continuous exposure. Thus, added to the fact that the brain likes it, we continue to consume it, even if it is toxic.
Answered by José Miñarro López, Full Professor of Psychobiology and Director of the Research Unit of Psychobiology of Drug Addiction at the University of Valencia.
Question sent by María Isabel Hernández Cortés.
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