It is reasonably well accepted that alcohol lowers your inhibitions.

Better than drunk girl

However, I often hear it claimed that specific alcohols "make me mean" or "I become a different person". Is this claim really the result of alcohol inducing an actual significant change of personality, or is it just a result of inhibitions being lowered, and a person acting out on naturally suppressed tendencies? To be be specific, what is the nature of this supposed change? Are there any studies that support either assertion?

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    I guess that picture was a bit much? ;) – Larian LeQuella Jun 2 '11 at 20:48
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    As a demonstration of my dedication to skepticism, I am willing to conduct a controlled experiment on myself. – Monkey Tuesday Jun 2 '11 at 22:53
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    +1 for @Monkey doing it for science. I was going to answer this question but I fear I'd be marked down. So here's my answer in comment form. Yes it does, in two distinct ways. Firstly there's the GABA-mediated effects including disinhibition, and, paradoxically, combativeness. These effects can be seen manifest in almost any town on any Friday night. Secondly, excessive long-term use can cause brain damage. Korsakoff's syndrome, "is a neurological disorder caused by the lack of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the brain." A cause is chronic alcoholism. A prominent component of the syndrome is apathy. – user2466 Jun 3 '11 at 0:05
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    What about the "specific alcohols" part of the question? I'm assuming this is ye olde 'wine makes me sleepy but tequila makes me fun' (or whatever) idea? Could differemt alcohols possibly cause different reactions and due to what mechanism? Fascinating! – hudsonsedge Jun 7 '11 at 3:40
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    I don't see how your proposed answers are different. 1) Alcohol makes changes (short term and long term) 2) Person describes the outcome of this changes as either changed behaviour ("I felt relaxed") or changed personality ("I became a different person"). Is your question about the nature of the change or the nature of the person's explanations? Could you provide more information on what you are trying to prove/understand? – Sergey Jun 14 '11 at 15:30
up vote 15 down vote accepted
+50

Well, maybe it doesn't.

Yes alcohol does "increas[e] the effects of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA". But how that manifests itself is not always equal. It seems that alcohol, depending on context has quite a different impact on individuals. (see http://www.sirc.org/publik/drinking4.html)

On long term usage, alcohol will work as a depressant.

For more info, see this wikipedia entry: Effects of alcohol on the body - Moderate doses

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    Can you expand this answer more? I am not wholly satisfied with it, hence why I offered a bounty and have not selected this answer yet. If you get more in, you will end up with over 65 points from me. – Larian LeQuella Jun 17 '11 at 14:55
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    Yes, and I thought the question was about certain types (question says, "specific types) -- as in some people claim that when they drink whiskey (or vodka, or bourbon), they become "mean" or when they drink scotch (or whatever), they take on more of a "mellow" personality. – Hendy Jun 17 '11 at 19:38
  • Sorry for the late reply. I'm not fitted for more detailed explanation, the subject is an intrest of me; not a speciality. I added the links as good sources for more detailed answers. On the part of the "specific types" of drinks, I think the theory of "different context - different drunk" applies. – Bert Goethals Jun 27 '11 at 9:27
  • Important note: speaking generally, increasing GABAergic effects does not mean that a drug is a depressant. 1) GABA is not always inhibitory and 2) If you inhibit GABAergic afferences to, for instance, glutamatergic neurons, you end up having an hyperstimulation of whatever is past those glutamatergic neurons. – nico Jul 7 '12 at 10:03

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