by In the PourLast Updated: 09/05/2017
The Optimal Buzz
Research shows that a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of between .04% and .06% provides the most benefits while also avoiding several negative effects of alcohol.
Alcohol is unique because it acts as both a stimulant and depressant. Ethanol Alcohol is a small molecule which means it interacts with many different physiological systems. Larger and more complex molecules (such as THC and Caffeine) tend to have a more focused effect. Some of the neurotransmitter systems that alcohol affects are:
- Dopamine: plays an important role in the brain’s "reward center" and sense of pleasure
- Endorphins: act as pain killers and provide a sense of euphoria
- Epinephrine (a.k.a. Adrenaline) and Norepinephrine: act as stimulants
- Glutamate: affects coordination and memory
- GABA: causes relaxation, drowsiness, and other depressant effects
Now here's the important part: Dopamine levels peak at a BAC of .06% while GABA continues to be released as BAC increases. That’s why above .06% drunkenness goes from happy and social to sloppy and sleepy.
Furthermore, drinking beyond .06% on a regular basis causes the brain to stabilize at lower Dopamine levels. While some might view this as building a tolerance, it also means that heavy drinkers may miss out on the stimulating and pleasurable phase of drinking. Perhaps this is why many people find it beneficial to "detox" over several weeks. Even though the body processes all Alcohol within hours after drinking, a prolonged "detox" period could help Dopamine interaction in the brain reset to a normal level.