What happens to the person who is exposed repeatedly to such impressive ‘scientific’ communications as:
- ‘New Evidence For Receptor’s Role In Alcohol Pleasure And Problems’,
- ‘Alcohol Lights Up Brain’s Pleasure Centers‘,
- ‘All the pleasures of alcohol, with no downsides’,
- ‘Tobacco, Alcohol and Dopamine’,
- ‘Alcohol Pleasure Leads to Problems’and
- ‘Alcohol, Chemistry and You’ and so on (and on, and on)?
These incessant announcements no doubt reinforce what most of us already believe we know – namely, that using alcohol (‘in moderation’, of course) makes us all feel so very good.
We may not have known much about the magical brain circuitry that is understood by ‘scientists’ to underlie pleasure and pain nor about the chemical messengers and receptors that mediate these mental reactions. We are pleased to find now, within highly technical-sounding reports that, ‘Most people who drink derive pleasure, relaxation and the potential for certain health benefits from ethanol consumption’ and we learn of brain opioids engaging mu-type receptors, endorphins being released in the nucleus accumbens and orbito-frontal cortex or ‘millions of molecules of dopamine surging in the bloodstream and ricocheting inside the skull to set off a cascade of chemical and electrical events, a kind of neurological chain reaction that ricochets around the skull and rearranges the chemical make up of the mind’ as a result of alcohol use. Nobody can fail to be impressed. There is a great deal of sophisticated biochemistry, we now recognize in awe, underlying our primitive experiences.
When esoteric studies of brain action are reported through impressive words, multicolored representations and brain pictures that baffle, we get carried away by the precise understanding they appear to reflect. The lesson learnt, usually unnoticed, is that the physical basis of alcohol pleasure is all so clear now. But some rather basic real science may be getting submerged in this seemingly super science din. It is time for some laid back skeptical scrutiny. Let us embark on this exploration, in small steps.
My suggestion is that the examination of our own experience of pleasure in alcohol is a good place to start. Consider first what feelings and reactions are set off within us, when asked to look at alcohol pleasure as it applies to us. What memories do we have right now, of the last three alcohol using occasions and how well do they reflect what we may have felt at the time? We can then go on to look more carefully at what alcohol makes us feel, the next time we consume. Is what we undergo based mostly on habit – an automatic response of sorts? Do we feel good as soon as we start consuming, as opposed to an hour later? Is the ‘best’ time later in the alcohol using event or mostly early? Who helps us enjoy the beverage and who is a hindrance? Is intoxication something we personally seek or try to avoid? A thousand nuances emerge, some of them interesting enough to examine further, when we start our critical inspection.
If we don’t (consciously and deliberately) consume, we can start by scrutinizing at least our beliefs regarding alcohol pleasure. Quietly studying what those who use alcohol say and do, during the event and at other times, can be helpful.
Once we get our ideas and observations organized, it will be time to take the next step in this exploration.