[Hankyoreh S] Shin Chan-young’s poison of the mind, medicine of the mind - too much is too much.
- Alcohol, drinking more than 3 drinks a day decreases life expectancy
- Nicotine, insomnia and sexual dysfunction
- Caffeine has a negative effect on adolescent brain development
- Communication is also a process of spreading medicine and poison.
Is alcohol medicine for the mind or is it alcohol? What about cigarettes (nicotine) or coffee (caffeine)?
Monkeys also drink naturally made fruit wine, but humans have been artificially making and drinking alcohol since the Neolithic Age. Alcohol can be either medicinal or strong depending on the type, amount, person, and physical and mental conditions of the day. Alcohol relieves stress and has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system and digestion, but at the same time, it is a carcinogen and causes various diseases in the liver, immune system, reproductive system, and endocrine system. Alcohol (ethanol) is so small and has a non-specific effect that it touches multiple targets, so it is difficult to clearly explain its pharmacological action on the nervous system. However, at low concentrations, it blocks inhibitory nerve conduction, makes you feel better than usual, and makes social communication smoother by chattering. It has an stimulating effect. However, at high concentrations, it non-specifically suppresses all nerve activity, resulting in loss of memory, impaired motor and sensory functions, and symptoms similar to psychosis.
Alcohol also causes mental and physical developmental disorders. If a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, the chance of developing a developmental disorder called fetal alcohol spectrum syndrome increases. We can’t just blame the ‘pregnant mother’. A few years ago, my research team conducted a study using animals, wondering whether alcohol would cause problems for children born only through their mothers. Surprisingly, pups born from a pregnancy in which the mother rat did not drink alcohol and the father rat drank a lot of alcohol had a higher or equal chance of developing developmental disorders than those born to a mother who drank alcohol during pregnancy. There is increasing interest worldwide in the relationship between male drinking and developmental disabilities in future generations. As with carcinogenicity, there is no safe range (threshold) for the possibility of alcohol causing developmental disorders. This means that even one glass of alcohol can cause problems, although the probability may be low.
One drink a day after age 40, shortens lifespan by 6 months.
Scientists are not sure to what extent drinking alcohol is good for the body. Until now, one or two drinks a day (two drinks for men, one drink for women. It's not because women weigh less, but because their physiological responses are different) is okay, but there are reports that drinking one drink a day after the age of 40 reduces life expectancy by about 6 months. Consuming more than 3 drinks a day on average significantly reduces life expectancy.
If you become addicted to alcohol, you can use a drug called naltrexone, which is a drug addiction treatment, or acamprosate, which suppresses brain excitability. In the past, disulfiram, which metabolizes alcohol and causes a hangover-causing acetaldehyde to build up in the body, was used as a drug to stop drinking, which makes you sick of alcohol. Interestingly, research and development is underway on drugs to quit drinking and alcoholism as anti-cancer drugs, treatments for COVID-19, and treatments for tinnitus, Alzheimer's dementia, stroke, and autism.
So what about nicotine? The harmful effects of smoking are so obvious that the number of people inhaling only nicotine through electronic cigarettes is increasing these days. Nicotine is a substance that stimulates nicotinic receptors among the two types of receptors to which acetylcholine binds. It increases mental excitability and has effects such as happiness, improved concentration, memory, awakening, and digestion. Inhaling a small amount increases blood pressure, but as the amount increases, blood pressure decreases. At higher doses, it impairs concentration, increases irritability, and causes cramps in the hands and feet. Furthermore, it increases headaches and anxiety, inhibits appetite, and causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, insomnia, and male sexual dysfunction. Nicotine itself is not believed to be carcinogenic, but like alcohol, it can cause fetal abnormalities during pregnancy. Nicotine is a substance produced by Solanaceae plants to protect themselves, and has a strong insecticidal effect, so similar substances are used as pesticides. In addition, based on the various pharmacological effects of nicotine, nicotine analogues are being developed as treatments for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, schizophrenia, and autism.
Bad words ‘poison coming out of the mouth’
Along with alcohol and cigarettes, coffee is a representative favorite. Many people cannot start their day without coffee. The wakefulness effect you feel when drinking coffee is due to caffeine. Caffeine, a representative stimulant, is contained in large quantities not only in coffee but also in tea. It is addictive, so once you try it, it is difficult to quit like alcohol or cigarettes. Adenosine, which exists in our body, generally inhibits nerve transmission, and caffeine-type stimulants inhibit these adenosine receptors to produce excitement. It inhibits the adenosine A1 receptor in the heart, making the heart beat faster, and inhibits the A1 and A2A adenosine receptors in the brain, preventing sleep and clearing the mind. Adenosine acts to stabilize synapses in young animals and destroys them as they age. Therefore, exposure to caffeine, which inhibits adenosine receptors during the developmental stage, may destroy synapses and have a negative effect on brain development. Rather, it is possible that it may have effects such as preventing dementia in older age.
In the past, children were not allowed to drink coffee. Nowadays, growing teenagers are exposed to high-caffeine energy drinks, cola, and coffee from an early age. The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported a study showing that children's consumption of caffeinated beverages is inversely proportional to their academic achievement. This means that you may sleep less and study more due to caffeine intake, but you will never be able to get good grades due to poor concentration.
Caffeine has a bronchodilator effect, so a substance called theophylline, which is similar to caffeine, is still used as a treatment for asthma. Due to its diuretic and gastric acid secretion effects, coffee can make you go to the bathroom frequently and cause stomach upset. Scientists are studying the complex pharmacological effects of caffeine and attempting to develop treatments for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, diuretics, and anticancer drugs.
Unlike other animals, humans have sophisticated speech, facial expressions, and movements. Through this, you can communicate and have a positive influence on your family, friends, and colleagues. However, like all things in this world, ‘too much is too little.’ In pharmacology, the principle that an excessive amount of medicine becomes poison is considered as life. Even good words should be limited to just one verse. Good words are like that, but bad words are just poison. We have both medicine and poison for the mind that we can give to others. As we go through life, whether we give medicine as a gift or poison is up to us. The attitude of accepting what others say is also important. All neurology and psychiatric drugs have a placebo effect as well as a nocebo effect (a phenomenon in which a drug becomes ineffective even though it is a real drug because it is believed to be ineffective). If you doubt the other person's sincerity, it becomes poison, not medicine. I look forward to a world filled with doctors of the mind and pharmacists of the mind who give and receive medicine for the mind rather than poison for the mind.
Professor Shin Chan-young, Konkuk University Graduate School of Medicine
A psychopharmacologist who recognizes that your mind and mine are different. As a pioneer in basic research on brain development disorders, he has published over 190 papers related to brain disease animal models and mechanism research.
※The series ends. Thank you to the author and readers.
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