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'Good Feelings' From Alcohol Only Come With Fewer Drinks - Source: US News & World Report (Excerpts)

New research suggests that when it comes to getting pleasure from alcohol, less may be more.

Experiments in rats suggest that a low or moderate amount of drinking releases "feel-good" brain chemicals called beta-endorphins, but this activity tapers off with heavier drinking.

"Drinking the low amounts of alcohol is associated with mild euphoria, decreased anxiety and a general feeling of well-being, while drinking high amounts of alcohol is associated with sedative, hypnotic effects and often with increased anxiety," said study author Christina Gianoulakis, a professor of psychiatry and physiology at McGill University and Douglas Mental Health University Institute, in Montreal.

In the study, researchers injected male laboratory rats with saline or alcohol and tracked levels of opioid brain chemicals such as endorphins, enkephalins and dynorphins. Rodents given low to moderate levels of alcohol showed increased levels of beta-endorphins, which produce a feeling of well-being in humans, while those given higher levels of alcohol did not. The same doses did not alter levels of the other the two other opioids, enkephalins and dynorphins.

Higher doses of alcohol failed to trigger the same release of beta-endorphins, the team found.

"This is a laboratory study, so it's not easy to extrapolate from this study into specific effects on people in real-life situations," Galanter said.

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