What Is the Relationship between Alcohol and the Central Nervous System?

Brandon May

The central nervous system is a part of the body that includes the brain, spinal column and surrounding nerves, all of which are affected by the consumption of alcohol. Alcohol and the central nervous system are connected by alcohol's depressing effects on the mind, emotions, speech and the ability to judge and make decisions. When alcohol is consumed, the deterioration of the central nervous system follows a routine behavior, categorized first by the inability to think clearly followed by improper movement and lack of balance. Memory loss and confusion are also common symptoms associated with alcohol and the central nervous system, as are emotional outbursts and instability.

Emotional depression can follow alcohol consumption.
Emotional depression can follow alcohol consumption.

There are many known relationships between alcohol and the central nervous system, most of which involve the mind, emotions and physical behavior. The first connection that has been widely researched is the decreased ability to make wise decisions or judgements. When alcohol is consumed in large amounts, thinking becomes hazy and unclear, often resulting in memory loss, confusion and poor critical thinking skills. Poor decision making also increases during this time, as proper brain functioning is hindered and depressed following large amounts of alcohol.

Alcohol affects a person's ability to think clearly.
Alcohol affects a person's ability to think clearly.

Emotional depression and mood issues also result following alcohol consumption, even though alcohol is perceived as being an emotional and physical stimulant. Although emotional outbursts can occur during a drunk or hazy state, alcohol is considered to exaggerate emotions and cause people to become unstable and have mixed emotions. Since behavior and decisions often occur as the result of a feeling or emotion, poor decision making will also occur while the central nervous system is depressed from alcohol consumption. Happiness, anger and sadness are common emotions experienced during drinking, and they are often exaggerated and appear in a specific sequence.

Poor balance and coordination are also common examples of the relationship between alcohol and the central nervous system, and often involve clumsiness and poor posture. Since the mind controls all aspects of behavior and physical movement, it makes since that the depressive action of alcohol can cause movement and balance to become hindered. This can also affect areas such as driving or operating machinery, as coordination is often slowed and unfocused. Proper execution of simple tasks can often become quite difficult to accomplish following alcohol consumption.

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Discussion Comments


I learned about the relationship between alcohol and the central nervous system in class this week. Now I understand why I get so sleepy from alcohol. Alcohol slows everything down -- our heart rate, breathing and all other functions.


Alcohol isn't an emotional stimulant at all. I guess some people think that because it helps people shed inhibitions as people feel like they don't have to follow rules and remain in boundaries when they drink. But actually, alcohol will make someone feel down in the dumps because it depresses the central nervous system. It's a bad idea to drink when upset because it will just make one feel worse. It can also trigger anxiety and even nervous breakdowns in some people.


I had always heard that some people become a totally different person when they drink. I didn't know what that meant exactly as I've never been much of a drinker. But I discovered what it meant when my husband started abusing me after drinking. He was normally a very nice and calm person. But after drinking, he became mean and aggressive.

We're divorced now and that experience has taught me what a terrible effect alcohol can have on some people. It really does impact the ability to think clearly. It turns some people into the worst variations of themselves. I understand that it's because of the effects of alcohol on the central nervous system. But people who have this issue just need to stay away from alcohol.

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