17 Dec Effects of Alcohol on the Brain
Around eighty-five percent of Americans report drinking alcohol at least one time in their life, and almost one hundred million Americans check the boxes for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Alcohol is one of the most abused substances in the world, especially as it is socially acceptable in many countries.
However, heavy and long-term use of alcohol can have many adverse effects on many body organs, especially the brain. In addition to many other vital functions, the powerful and delicate organ maintains a balance of chemicals that help the body function well.
Heavy alcohol use can easily disrupt this balance, and in the long-term, force the brain to adapt to the new, unhealthy system. Alcohol also causes physiological dependence, forcing a drinker to face nasty withdrawal symptoms or keep poisoning their body. Here are some of the short-term and long-term effects of alcohol on the brain.
How Alcohol Affects the Brain in the Short-Term
Short-term effects of alcohol on the brain include reduced cognitive and physical activities. These usually range from mild to moderate, depending on how much alcohol one has consumed, how often they drink, their body weight, and other factors.
Alcohol also affects the brain’s communication and information processing pathways. The more alcohol a person drinks at once, the higher the risk of reduced motor coordination, memory and recall impairment, and many other signs of adverse effects on the brain. Alcohol could also cloud one’s judgment, reduce inhibitions, and impair decision-making.
If drinking continues after the onset of these symptoms, alcohol poisoning could set in. Alcohol poisoning occurs when one takes alcohol in large amounts within a short period. It is a serious and often fatal condition. Every year in the United States, over 2,000 people die from alcohol poisoning. Some of the symptoms of the condition include:
- Respiratory issues
- Reduced heart rate
- Cognitive impairment (often permanent)
- Nausea and vomiting
How Alcohol Affects the Brain in the Long-Term
If the short-term effects of alcohol seem scary, they are almost nothing compared to its long-term effects. Continued use of alcohol can cause the brain’s hippocampus to shrink. The more a person drinks, the higher the risks of shrinkage. Even people who occasionally drink over several years or decades have more risk compared to those who never drink at all.
Long-term and heavy use of alcohol could also lead to thiamine deficiency. This deficiency comes from poor nutrition, as heavy drinkers eat less and drink more. One of the effects of thiamine deficiency is Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome or wet brain, which causes reduced coordination and balance and recurring difficulties with memory and assimilation.
Alcohol abuse can also result in alcohol use disorder (AUD), a chronic disorder that is also known as alcoholism. This disorder is characterized by persistent, uncontrollable use of alcohol even at the detriment of one’s career, family, or health. Without professional help, AUD can be a life-long condition, with many adverse effects on a person’s physical and mental health.
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