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Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of Unknowns Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of the Unknown

Alcohol intoxication

Despite the fact that alcohol has been used and misused for hundreds of years, the mechanism of action of this simple molecule remains the subject of study. Alcohol use results in diverse behavioral effects, including intoxication, cognitive impairment, motor incoordination, tolerance and dependence, and these effects are likely due to its actions on multiple brain proteins.
Determining the precise molecular target of a psychoactive drug is notoriously difficult and for few drugs has this been more challenging than for ethanol. Considering that ethanol is the most widely used drug in society and that ethanol abuse is by far the most common form of substance abuse, understanding where and how this compound acts in the brain is one of the key challenges of neuroscience.

Source : Alcohol. 2007 May; 41(3): 211–221.

Although it has been established that alcohol strongly affects the functioning of the Central Nervous System (CNS), identifying the biochemical pathways has been problematic. Unlike many other psychologically active chemicals, no 'binding sites' for alcohol have been found.

It's currently theorised that it affects the CNS's GABAa receptors, but experimental evidence is unclear :

[…] there are reports spanning more than 30 years of literature showing that moderate (3–30 mM) concentrations of ethanol enhance GABAergic neurotransmission. However, there are also many reports showing no effect of moderate or even large concentrations of ethanol in vivo and in vitro.

Source : Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2008 Jul; 90(1): 90–94.

Irrespective of whether or not alcohol affects GABAA receptors, its very well-known physical and mental effects are yet to be fully explained.

Further reading : Wikipedia


Also see :General Anaestheticsplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigGeneral Anaesthetics

A general anaesthetic is a drug that brings about a reversible loss of consciousness.

In formal use since 1842 - the first public demonstration used Diethyl ether to carry out surgery. (Though it's likely that alcohol, another chemical classed as an anaesthetic, was previously used, extensively, for similar purposes).
and Hangoverplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigHangover

Despite its ubiquity and history spanning several thousand years, the understanding of alcohol-induced 'Hangover' is limited.

"Alcohol hangover is characterized by adverse physical and mental effects that occur the next morning after the intake of toxic doses of alcohol. This phenomenon is a very frequent experience among alcohol-consuming people and it has been associated to high socio-economic costs, mainly due to absenteeism and poor performance in academic and work settings. Mult…
and The 'drunken monkey' hypothesisplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigThe 'drunken monkey' hypothesis

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is one of the most common addictive substance abuses. It's estimated that in the US alone, there more than 3 million early deaths each year as a result.( ref.)

Leading to the question - why do humans have such a preference for alcohol?

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