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Sensory overload

3144 Views 3 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  David Kozin
Anyone ever feel like there is so much to see or hear that it's just going to ber too much and then they'll somehow go blind or deaf or just plain crazy trying to take it all in? I know it's just another dp/dr thought, but it's annoying. I'm on day two of not drinking, hoping that things will start to get better without that factor involved in my life.
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Alcohol is often abused with individuals who have drug-induced and non-drug induced visual disturbances like you describe in order to reduce these visual symptoms. These symptoms can include, but are not limited to: shapes looking odd, the myriad of color, blurred vision, moving objects in your vision, static at night, lights creating trails or stars. Alcohol acts like a benzodiazepine, which relates to what Servo has said. It suppresses certain firing of neurons and the current theory is that the visual distortions are related to an inability to inhibit certain visual processing cells from firing.

For example, a camera flashbulb is flashed in someone's face. Your brain gets the signal and your visual neurons become activated, and even an individual with normal visual functioning will still see a little after image on that flash, however there are cells that are designed to then inhibit these signals so that afterimage goes away. It just happens that these inhibitory neurons are cells that have what we would call GABAergic outputs. They send out GABA (which is a molecule a/k/a neurotransmitter) to the visual cells and GABA is a type of molecule that is inhibitory, so it will stop that afterimage. Alcohol also acts like GABA in certain ways, and much more the benzodiazepines are designed to significantly enhance GABA-receiving receptors. Now...

If you have problems with visual oversensitivity(Note: These types of visual problems have been measured in the lab. I can go in to more detail on this another time, but you can check the info at the bottom of the post for the related article), then you may not be able to get rid of that afterimage as quickly as you should. So, people drink or are prescribed benzos to help alleviate these problems. HOWEVER, both of these "solutions" can have significant side effects. So, it is not a perfect cure for these problems. I can say that Dr. Henry David Abraham, in an unpublished study, used a very potent benzo in the lab to test the effect of this drug on individuals with severe visual perceptual problems. The results were very good and these individuals reported an almost complete elimination of the symptoms, however the drug is not practical to be used at home. It was used intravenously and is extremely short acting (measured in minutes). Additionally, you could not function in the real world on this drug (The drug is Midazolam (a/k/a Versed), for those of you who are curious. The data was never published because of such a small sample size).

Lastly, you may be experiencing a rebound effect from the alcohol withdrawal. If your brain has been used to receiving alcohol, then it compensates. So, what you are experiencing now will likely not be as bad as it will stay. After the withdrawal period the symptoms will level off. I can not say this for sure without knowing more about the history of your use, etc... just a thought.

Best of luck, I have known very good people caught and destroying their lives with alcohol abuse. This also goes for benzodiazepine abuse as well.

All my best,


1. Abraham HD, Duffy FH., Stable quantitative EEG difference in post-LSD visual disorder by split-half analysis: evidence for disinhibition., Psychiatry Res. 1996 Oct 7;67(3):173-87.
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