Aleteia

Science says alcohol won’t help you forget. In fact, it will make you remember

Shutterstock/Axel Bueckert
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Evasion is only possible in the short term

If you drink to forget, then forget about it. Studies carried out both at the University of Texas at Austin (in 2011) and John Hopkins University in Baltimore (this year) confirm that even if alcohol will indeed make you forget certain things (such as what were you doing the night you got drunk), it will, on the other hand, increase your capacity to remember certain other things. As repeated, exposure to ethanol (that is, alcohol) “enhances synaptic plasticity in a key area in the brain.” In English, that means that even if you forget certain things (such as where you left your keys, or someone’s name) while drinking, at a subconscious level you are indeed acquiring memories and building habits that become patterns.

Researchers at John Hopkins divided laboratory mice into two groups. One group had only water to drink for two hours and the other group had only alcohol. Right after that, both groups were exposed to a sound that was followed by an electric shock. The next day, the rodents heard the same sound, only this time such exposure was not followed by the discharge. The results showed that mice that had alcohol were more frightened than those who only had water: they remembered the electric discharge better. That is to say, alcohol perpetuates the sensation of fear, as it intercepts a neurotransmitter (glutamate) that is involved in the extinction of certain memories. So, yes, alcohol might help you evade your short-term woes, but it won’t erase the effects of any past traumas.

If you want to read the whole study, you can click here.

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