Around the world, there are as many reasons for drinking alcohol as there are people who drink it. We celebrate together by raising our glasses in a toast or by having a few cold ones during the game. Alcohol, whether as a night cap or a signature drink at a wedding seems to be a ubiquitous part of the happy times in our lives. We’re all so used to hearing about the supposed health benefits of alcohol, especially red wine, but there could be even more to alcohol than a healthy heart, like a quick fix for depression.
A new study suggests that alcohol can be a used as a short-term anti-depressant, blocking our NMDA receptors for around 24 hours. So, in other words, when we’re feeling down and reach for that glass of wine, we may be self-medicating and not even realize it. Depending on the person and the severity of depression, that “quick fix” for the blues can easily become a habit, dependence or addiction to alcohol. For others, that mood boost can lead to drinking too much in one sitting, further leading to a DUI and car breathalyzer (ignition interlock) requirement or other health consequences.
It may feel natural to reach for a drink when we’re feeling down, but remember that alcohol does have a negative effect on the brain and body, not to mention our judgment. NMDA receptors are also associated with memory and cognitive function.
Even if alcohol can help perk up our mood, we all have to be careful, even in the short-term. The dangers of drunk driving are real, no matter how good we’re feeling. There may not be a big problem with having a drink to feel a little better about life, but that still means we need to have a plan for a safe ride if we’ll be heading home or anywhere else once we’ve started drinking.