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Alcohol has been around since before the rise of the ancient Egyptian and was used for various reasons which include pleasure, nutrition, medicine rituals, and funerals. However, even in ancient Egypt there are accounts of alcohol abuse being a problem.1 Now fast-forward to today and you can see drinking alcoholic beverages is still popular in society but there are still many problems associated with alcohol abuse.  Through school programs, like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), we are taught about alcohol abuse however education does not seem to be slowing down the number of cases of alcoholism. Could there be a pharmaceutical approach to help people with alcohol abuse? This is what the paper in last week’s neurochemistry class examined.

Although alcohol has been around a long time, researching the effects of alcohol on the nervous system is very complicated. Currently researchers think alcohol is acting as a “two wave” system. The first part of the wave occurs when alcohol molecules (ethanol) hit specific targets in the brain. These are believed to include NMDA and GABA receptors which are common receptors in the brain. Once these receptors are activated the “second wave” hits with indirect effects on a variety of neurotransmitter and neuropeptide systems. Scientists believe endocannabinoids, opioids, and monoamines are important molecules responsible for the feelings of reward and reinforcement from alcohol consumption and they act through these neurotransmitter and neuropeptide systems. Although this information is a good start, much is still unknown about how alcohol affects the brain.

Since scientists are still trying to unravel the mystery of how alcohol is directly and indirectly affecting the brain it is unrealistic to expect an affective anti-alcohol abuse drug soon. So what can be done to slow down alcohol abuse today? Personally, I believe drinking, especially at younger ages, normally occurs in settings which promote large amounts of alcohol to be consumed. Examples of these settings include parties and bars with drink specials. Now I’m all for social drinking but I think the best solution for the US is to create a more relaxed drinking culture where people are more interested in socializing rather than trying to drink one’s fill. I studied abroad in Ireland last semester and the drinking society is very relaxed there. It was more common to go to a pub for one or two drinks with friends instead of going into situations where I felt pressured to drink more because of the environment.  However, daily socializing should not always take place in these setting like in Ireland. Another idea is to make drinking legal in situations where you are with family before the age of 21. I feel like people would be less likely to drink excessively if they are introduced that drinking from family who can show when and how to drink. Instead people are given the power to legally drink and they are unfamiliar with how and when one should drink. I know all people are not this way but I know many have encountered this problem.  Although these suggestions are probably unrealistic, alcohol abuse is still a problem which should receive more attention than it does. However by looking at the past and today one thing is for sure, alcohol consumption will continue to be popular in distant future.

Sources:

1)      http://urbanbeerhunt.com/images/beertoast.jpg

2)      http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/Controversies/1114796842.html

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