Alcohol's Effect on Neurotransmitters

After crossing the blood-brain barrier, alcohol affects several neurotransmitter systems–those for GABA, glutamate, serotonin, dopamine, and the endogenous opiates–the body's naturally occurring painkillers, also called endorphins. Alcohol is an agonist for GABA, serotonin, dopamine, and the endorphins–it increases their activity. Alcohol is an antagonist for glutamate—it reduces glutamate activity.

Let's first take a look at how alcohol molecules affect the neurotransmitter system for dopamine.

Dopamine is released into the synapse in response to an action potential. Dopamine molecules diffuse across the synapse and bind to D4 receptor sites on the membrane of the postsynaptic cell, causing it to also "fire." D4 is one of several types of dopamine receptors. Alcohol molecules bind to the D4 receptors and increase the activity of the dopamine cells. Neurotransmitter

Alcohol's Effect on Dopamine and other Neurotransmitters