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Alcohol Abuse: Does It Cause Brain Damage?

Alcohols Effects on the BrainMany people can attest to the side effects of excessively consuming alcohol. Loss of motor skills, slurred speech, blurry vision, slowed reaction, and staggering is just some of the indicators that a person has had too much alcohol. These become apparent because of the way alcohol affects the brain.

Most of these symptoms last for several hours depending on how much drink the person had. The toxic substance will eventually leave the body and the side effects will also fade away. The only thing left behind is a nasty hangover.

Even with its side effects, it is quite difficult to avoid alcohol. It is easily accessible, and it has become part of almost any celebration. But social drinking is totally different from when the individual begins to regularly consume alcohol heavily. This can lead to serious cognitive side effects that will last long after the drinking spree ends. The most alarming of this excessive drinking, if done on an extended period of time, can cause severe brain damage. This includes wet brain and irreversible memory loss.

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Alcohol and Its Effects on the Brain

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Thus, one’s speech, movement, and thoughts slow down whenever they are drinking. Alcohol directly affects the brain’s chemistry as it changes the levels of the neurotransmitter, which controls certain processes like behaviors, emotions, and thoughts.

When a person drinks alcohol, the act suppresses the neurotransmitter that manages excitement, but it also increases some other neurotransmitters that impede brain activity. This results in the sedative side effects of using the substance, such as stumbling and slurred speech.

The more alcohol a person consumes, the slower the brain and body are to react. Consuming too much of the drink within a short span of time can cause a period of memory loss that is also known as the blackout.

Drinking alcohol multiplies dopamine levels in the brain. This is better known as the “feel-good” chemical. When dopamine is released, the brain is tricked into thinking that drinking alcohol can make you feel wonderful. But the reality is, consuming alcohol can change the brain’s chemistry such that it eventually intensifies the feelings of depression.

The severity of the side effects of consuming alcohol varies from an individual to another. However, there are certain factors that have a direct influence on the brain’s function because of alcohol consumption.

These are:

  • The frequency of alcohol consumption
  • Amount of consumption in one sitting
  • Age an individual starts to drink
  • How long the person has been drinking
  • History of alcoholism in the family
  • Gender, genetic factors, and age
  • An individual’s general health

There are some people who immediately feel the effects of alcohol after having one drink. Some need to have a few rounds before they can feel drunk. Yet no matter how much it takes for a person to actually feel the alcohol’s side effects, the fact is alcohol starts to influence the brain as soon as it goes into the body. Abusing the substance increases the possibility that the brain may suffer serious and lifelong injuries.

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Alcohol-Related Brain Impairment

Drunk PersonRepeated and regular alcohol abuse within a long period of time will yield toxic effects on the brain. It can manifest in several ways depending on which part of the brain is affected. The symptoms include poor memory recall, reckless behavior, depression, impaired judgment, and lack of coordination among many other side effects.

This host of issues is collectively called alcohol-related brain impairment (ARBI). Frequent heavy drinkers are most likely to experience this condition. However, people who binge drink are also at risk of developing ARBI.

It has been revealed that heavy drinking for a long period of time can shrink the size of a person’s brain. It can also cause the enlargement of the brain’s inner cavity. This change in brain mass is believed to be the reason for some of the impairing side effects mentioned above.

But something can still be done. A lot of these symptoms are reversible. For one, abstaining from consuming alcohol for several months or even a year will give time for the structural brain changes to rectify themselves. Refraining from drinking alcohol after a long period of drinking can also help boost memory, attention, and problem-solving skills.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

The Wernicke-Korskoff syndrome is more popularly known as wet brain. This is a kind of brain damage that occurs because of repeated and heavy exposure to alcohol and stems from vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency.

It is common for people suffering from alcohol abuse to have a poor diet, which causes them not to get the recommended daily amount of thiamine. In addition, the alcohol prevents the body from absorbing the said vitamin. Instead, the body uses the thiamine stored in the liver until such time that the said supply is completely used and exhausted.

There are two stages of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome or wet brain:

  • Wernicke’s encephalopathy – This is the first stage of the wet brain and is caused by some biochemical lesions of the nervous system. These lesions can lead to a confused mental state, impaired muscle coordination, and paralysis of the nerves connected with the control of eye movement. These symptoms can immediately improve once treated with thiamine injections.
  • Korsakoff’s psychosis – This is the more severe second stage of the condition and is caused by permanent damage to the part of the brain that is linked to memory. Individuals suffering from this stage may experience some difficulty making new memories, severe memory loss, and auditory or visual hallucinations. Sadly, about 80% of wet brain patients who continue to abuse alcohol will most likely develop Korsakoff’s psychosis.

Some of the symptoms of the wet brain can be treated to alter the negative side effects of abusing alcohol. Unfortunately, total recovery is improbable.

Hepatic Encephalopathy

selfish drunkHepatic encephalopathy is a condition where damage is caused to the brain stemming from liver failure.

The liver is regarded as one of the most crucial organs in the body. It filters the toxins from the bloodstream, so the body remains healthy. A person struggling with alcohol abuse will severely overwork and damage their liver as it attempts to strain the toxic alcohol from the blood.

Once the liver starts to fail, the toxins find their way to the brain causing disorientation, lethargy, sudden mood changes, slurred speech, and coma in severe instances.

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Alcohol Abuse and Brain Damage

The facts reveal that alcohol abuse can cause the brain to sustain serious damage. There are several conditions that lead to lifelong brain impairments, but many of the side effects are proven to be reversible following a period of abstinence from alcohol, as well as proper treatment methods.

Intervention should be done if you, a loved one, or someone you know experience’s any of the mentioned symptoms. Seek help now. We are here to assist you.
Want more information about how Chapters Capistrano can help? Feel free to call 949-371-4198 and one of our addiction specialists will help get the information and help you need.