By Jaron Zanerhaft
Researchers at UT Austin have just found something that, without proper perspective, could send many of my friends here back on the bottle: alcohol can actually help you learn. Not in the conventional sense, of course. Details, facts, concepts—all of the memory associated with these thing is still inhibited by alcohol consumption. It’s the subconscious memory that may be enhanced. Regular ethanol use increases plasticity in the brain, specifically in dopamine neurons. According to the research team, these effects linger for about a week after drinking.
Still, many good things for the recovery community could come from this study. Basically, this study gave definitive neurological proof of the phenomenon we know as “euphoric recall.” We know that the imbibed brain shoots off dopamine, and that is responsible for the rewarding feeling. Now we know that the ethanol compounds relax your synapses, conditioning you to grow unnaturally comfortable with your routine while drinking. Since this study has found what part of the brain makes you miss what you never really enjoyed, a method is on the horizon, maybe not to eliminate euphoric recall, but at least to weaken the irrational desire to return to a drunken state.
While I understand that I can condition myself easier using alcohol, I am beginning to realize the value of establishing healthy lifelong habits for myself. And the truth is, without alcohol, I value my routines even more. I feel like I have achieved my routines and therefore deserve the growth I get from them. Yes, alcohol could make getting into habits an easier process, but what kinds of habits ensue?
Really, this study only confirmed what we already know: the more we drink, the easier it gets to do the things we do when we drink. Would you rather live your routines with disciplined persistence or with automatic, conditioned ease? While you must make the choice to actively live and participate in your life, it is still a choice.
- Drinking Alcohol Helps You Remember (outsidethebeltway.com)
- Drinking to forget? Bad news… alcohol can actually help you remember (dailymail.co.uk)