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The Effects of Alcohol on the Brain

February 7, 2023

Society considers alcohol a way to destress, relax, and connect socially. While this is true for some, the effects of alcoholism are far-reaching. Regular alcohol abuse can cause many issues that effect memory, judgment ability, coordination skills, motivation, and more.

February 7, 2023

Alcohol has many physiological effects. If someone drinks too much alcohol over an extended period, they are more likely to experience these effects. The immediate effects of too much alcohol include increased heart rate and blood pressure, which can impair judgment, coordination, and reaction time. Most people can relate to the fact that drinking too much often leads to nausea and vomiting, which can lead to dehydration. Alcohol abuse can also cause a lack of inhibition, which might incline someone to make poor decisions with lasting consequences.

What are these short-term and long-term effects? To explain what happens when you drink too much alcohol every day for a prolonged period of time, we’re going to look at what happens to the brain’s neurons, how alcohol affects the brain, and how alcohol can lead to other kinds of problems.

Short Term and Long Term Effects of Alcohol on the Brain and Body

People who drink too much alcohol are at risk for many health problems. Some of these problems may be related to actual drinking, but some may be caused by the consequences of drinking too much alcohol over an extended time. The major problems that can occur from alcoholism include:

Blackouts or Memory Loss

Alcohol abuse can cause blackouts, episodes in which a person cannot recall the previous hours, days, or weeks because the brain cells that control these memories have been affected by alcohol. Alcohol abuse can also make people more vulnerable to other kinds of memory problems like Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia.

Impulse Control

Alcohol abuse is linked to impulse control problems like extreme aggression, violent behavior, hyper-sexuality, and other harmful behavior.

Seizures

Because alcohol affects the brain’s chemicals, this has the potential to enable the brain to misfire, which can cause seizures of different magnitudes.

Thiamine Deficiency

Thiamine is another name for vitamin B1, which helps support nerve health. When you drink alcohol, it can temporarily reduce the body’s production of thiamine. Thiamine deficiency makes the brain less able to control impulses which can lead to problems like mental illness and other kinds of cognitive impairment that occur when those brain cells don’t function properly.

Neurodegenerative Diseases

People who drink too much are more likely to develop conditions like Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders that affect coordination, memory, and judgment. Alcohol abuse can also make you more vulnerable to diseases like Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Risk of Stroke

Alcohol abuse is linked to an increased risk of stroke in both men and women. Various factors, like high blood pressure or a deficiency in vitamin B1 can cause this increased risk.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Alcoholism can trigger peripheral neuropathy, a loss of feeling in the hands and feet. This may be the first sign that someone has developed alcohol dependence, but it is also often why many people seek alcoholism treatment.

Liver Damage

Alcohol abuse can cause liver damage, leading to other problems like hepatitis and cirrhosis.

Heart Disease

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and more.

Cancer

Alcohol abuse is linked to cancers of the mouth, throat, neck, and esophagus. These types of cancers are more common in people who drink heavily for many years or binge drink from time to time. Alcohol abuse can also raise cancer risk in other parts of the body, like the pancreas and liver.

Pancreatitis

Alcohol abuse is linked to pancreatitis, which causes inflammation in the organ that controls insulin production.

Wernicke’s Encephalopathy

Alcohol abuse is linked to Wernicke’s Encephalopathy, which is a condition that causes mental confusion and difficulty with memory and speech.

Dyslexia

Drinking too much alcohol can affect the parts of the brain responsible for processing information from the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth in a way that makes it more difficult to learn or read.

Insomnia

Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, even when used in moderation.

Depression and Anxiety

Alcohol not only increases your risk of anxiety and depression, it also directly leads to it. Alcohol exhausts the neurochemical in the brain like Serotonin which are responsible for mood stabilization and that feeling of happiness and contentment.

Addiction and Alcohol Abuse

Addiction is a brain disease caused by repeated drug use over an extended period. The problem with addiction is that the brain changes through repetitive use. Neural pathways that fire again and again in the same way form habits the brain seeks to repeat.

People with alcohol dependence feel compelled often if not every day. People with alcohol dependence may also feel extreme cravings for alcohol and continue to drink despite serious problems like mental illness, neurological damage, or injury. You may even feel depressed after being unable to drink for a while. The main symptom of an addiction is the compulsion to continue drinking alcohol even when it causes harm to your health and well-being.

Binge drinking is not the same as addiction, however, it still shares many of the negative effects when it comes to your brain. Binge drinking can lead you down the path of alcoholism, especially if alcoholism runs in your family, or you are a more addictive person by nature.

Alcohol Abuse Treatment

The most efficient way to overcome alcohol abuse is to seek help at a treatment center such as Hollywood Hills Recovery. There are many options for alcohol treatment, including:

Inpatient Detox

People experiencing problems from alcohol abuse can be admitted to a hospital for a while to detoxify, which is the process of ridding the body of all alcohol. This is not recommended for someone experiencing physical symptoms like seizures or high blood pressure.

Sober Living Programs

These programs offer care in a community-based setting that helps people stay sober. They often include structure and support, so people get the help they need to stay sober and live productive lives.

Therapy

People who have an alcohol addiction might find it helpful to work with a therapist to learn how to deal with the emotional, psychological, and social issues that are present as a result of drinking too much alcohol.

We’re Here to Help

If you or someone you know has an alcohol problem, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Contact us today to learn how we can help you begin your lasting recovery from alcohol addiction and start living a healthy, fulfilling life.

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Our incredible intake team is ready to answer all your questions and guide you through the process.

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