Most Americans drink, about 1/3rd of them take at least one drink a day. The permeating nature of alcohol in the social lives of people hides an important fact: alcohol is a drug, and a potentially harmful one. Alcohol adds to 2.6% of American deaths every year.
While alcohol consumption in small amounts may also offer some health benefits, habitual or binge drinking can harm the brain. The symptoms of brain damage due to alcoholism vary from person to person and are frequently similar to other symptoms related to alcohol abuse, such as dementia.
Here are the expected short-term and long-term effects of alcohol on the brain:
Short-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Brain
Alcohol directly changes brain chemistry. After drinking, alcohol upturns the activity of GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid), the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, and decreases the activity of the neurons, causing unclear speech, unstable gait, lapses in memory (short-term), and decelerated reflexes.
If a person drinks excessively, he/she may blackout, which means they or cannot recall what happened. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that one study found that about 40% of students who do drinking had blacked out at least once in the last year.
The brain chemistry changes related to consumption may take a person through an extensive range of moods, including aggression, depression, mania, confusion, euphoria, and anger. Too much consumption in a short period of time may even slow down a person’s heart rate and breathing, causing a coma.
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Brain
If excessive drinking endures over a long period of time, it results in chronic alterations in neurotransmitters’ activities and even structural abnormalities. Imaging studies done on individuals with alcoholism showed atrophy in the brain areas responsible for short-term and long-term memory, emotions and balance.
Some latent long-term effects of alcoholism include:
- heart issues that upturn the risk of stroke
- shrinkage of brain
- poor blood supply to the brain
- lack of essential nutrients that may harm the brain or cause type dementia related to alcohol called Korsakoff syndrome
- mental instability, including psychosis and hallucinations
- changes in personality or mood
Chronic consumption in children may exploit brain development. During pregnancy, alcohol exposure can cause an intricate group of warning signs called fetal alcohol syndrome.
Does Alcohol Kill Brain Cells?
It is a myth that alcoholism can kill brain cells. Instead, it harms the brain in other ways, for example, by damaging the neurons’ ends. This can make it problematic for the neurons to transfer important nerve impulses. Alcoholism may also harm the brain by increasing the risk of accidents, strokes, and head injuries.
Get Help Now
Doesn’t matter how long it has been while drinking alcohol, now is the best moment to quit drinking. Quitting alcoholism can also reverse some brain disorders, avoid premature death, and lessens the risk of further brain damage.
Alcoholism is not a personal weakening. And leaving alcoholism requires the right blend of mental health support and therapy. The right choice of recovery environment can make a big difference, so stay away from the places and people that trigger drinking.
If doing so feels difficult, a good rehab program might offer an environment where beginning sobriety feels more adaptable.
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