The question of whether alcohol is a truth serum came in 2006 after actor Mel Gibson went on a drunken anti-Semitic tirade, during which he reportedly said that Jews were responsible for all the wars in the world. The incident occurred when Gibson was pulled over for drunk driving, after which he publicly apologized and checked himself into alcohol addiction treatment. But while the actor chalked up his outburst to heavy drinking, in the fashion of the proverb, "a drunken man's words are a sober man's thoughts,” there might have been more truth behind his words than he cared to admit.
While being arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, Mel Gibson allegedly made anti-Semitic statements. The actor was known to have struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. In a 2004 interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer, he even said that he’d considered jumping out a window to escape his problems.
This drunken incident wasn’t the first time he’d received criticism for anti-Semitic behavior. His 2004 film about the death of Jesus, “The Passion of the Christ,” received criticism from some who said it portrayed Jews as Jesus’ killers. Coming back to 2006, while Gibson acknowledged, apologized for, and debunked the things he said, many wondered whether his true feelings came out when drunk.
If you’ve ever wondered, “does alcohol make you tell the truth?” the answer is yes; however, mind control isn’t part of the picture. While alcohol may encourage someone who’s repressed a particular thought or emotion to express themselves, others may simply lie. So, you can say that alcohol opens people up to speak their minds, but this doesn’t mean that everything they say is true.
These uninhibited responses are the result of alcohol’s effects on the brain. Alcohol affects the top portion of the brain known as the cerebral cortex, which makes the individual more likely to act and speak in ways they wouldn’t when sober. This can lead to something innocent or funny, or it can lead to aggressive behavior, loss of sexual discretion, and hurtful words.
With that said, while not everything that a person says while drunk is necessarily true, alcohol is a truth serum in cases where the emotions and beliefs expressed by the drunk individual are preexisting. In other words, alcohol can’t make anyone say something they weren’t already thinking or feeling.
For instance, if a couple has been fighting and one partner drinks heavily, they’re more likely to speak their mind about the argument without discretion. Alcohol impairs neural activity in the central nervous system and impairs important functions like emotional discretion when speaking.
As a result, someone who is drunk struggles to associate positive or negative consequences with the things they say. This means that someone who is under the influence of alcohol is more likely to say something hurtful without realizing it. Of course, these sorts of outbursts can have many consequences, as you have seen in Mel Gibson’s case.
So, to be clear, someone is more likely to express their true feelings when drunk. Alcohol cannot make you feel or think things, but rather it lowers the person’s inhibitions and judgment in social situations, which makes it more difficult for them to determine whether something is socially acceptable. They’re also more likely to say something hurtful that they otherwise wouldn’t say or word differently so as not to hurt another person’s feelings.
For these reasons, heavy drinking can encourage someone to say whatever is on their mind. While alcohol does make you tell the truth in most cases, people can still lie while under the influence. Context can help determine whether someone who’s drunk means what they say.
Negative comments and anger while drinking tends to be defense mechanisms and may not necessarily stem from the truth. Intoxicated individuals are also more likely to respond emotionally in social situations due to inhibited emotional processing, so keep this in mind the next time you’re around someone who’s a little too “honest” when drunk.
Although there’s a lot of back and forth on whether people are more honest when drunk, what is clear is that alcohol can have a severe impact on one’s physical, mental, and social health. Although alcoholism isn’t always exposed as shockingly as Mel Gibson’s drinking problem, millions of people in the U.S. deal with the repercussions of alcoholism every day.
If you or a loved one has a drinking problem, don’t wait to hit rock bottom to get help. Our partial hospitalization program in Chicago offers the treatment, resources, and support that people with drug and alcohol addictions need to regain their sobriety and learn how to sustain it long-term. No matter how long your addiction has gone on, our specialists can help.
For more information about the addiction services offered at our substance abuse rehab in Chicago, call Banyan Treatment Center today at 888-280-4763.
Why Do I Shake When I Drink Alcohol?