Getting prompt treatment for alcohol use disorder is critical to protecting brain health and reducing the risk of long-term damage.
Here are seven ways alcohol impairs your brain:
1. Alcohol Causes Euphoria
When you drink, dopamine levels rise. This immediate effect of alcohol causes a feeling of pleasure or euphoria. This can help you feel relaxed.
Even in this early stage, alcohol use has a negative effect on your brain. Along with the pleasant feeling of euphoria, you may experience minor impairment of memory and reasoning abilities.
Even just a few drinks can cause this, making it more difficult for you to make informed decisions or drive without risk.
2. Alcohol Impacts Your Brain’s Control Centers
Once you reach legally intoxicated blood alcohol levels, you may experience a loss of control. This is due to alcohol’s impact on the occipital, temporal, and frontal lobes in the brain.
This is when you may notice blurring of your vision and slower reaction times. You may slur your speech or struggle to hear well. Overall, you can lose some control over your body, and this can cause you to lose motor skills as well.
3. Alcohol Causes Confusion And Memory Loss
At a blood alcohol level of between 0.18 and 0.3, you may experience confusion, blackouts, and memory loss. This is because alcohol impacts the cerebellum, which helps your coordination, as well as the hippocampus, which aids in memory.
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When these two areas suffer from alcohol exposure, you may struggle to walk. This can also cause loss of short-term memory, which is why many people cannot remember what happened the next morning after a period of binge drinking.
4. Alcohol Increases The Risk Of Thiamine Deficiency
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, up to 80 percent of people battling alcoholism have thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. This puts them at risk for a serious brain disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.
Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome causes two problems: short-term encephalopathy (brain disease) and chronic psychosis.
Short-term encephalopathy can lead to mental confusion, vision problems, and muscle coordination issues. If left untreated, these short-term symptoms eventually lead to chronic psychosis.
Psychosis causes short-term memory problems, learning disabilities, and problems with coordination. This syndrome requires prompt treatment to avoid long-term brain damage, but it is often misdiagnosed in the early stages.
5. Alcohol Use Creates Dependency
One concerning effect of alcohol on the brain is dependency. With repeated exposure to alcohol, the brain develops a tolerance to its effects. This, in turn, causes intense cravings.
Once a person develops dependence, they may continue to drink even though they are suffering mental and physical symptoms. If they stop drinking, they may experience delirium tremens or other severe withdrawal symptoms.
6. Alcohol Increases The Risk Of Traumatic Brain Injury
In 2010, one study found that as many as 81 percent of patients who had traumatic brain injuries were also intoxicated at the time of injury. Serious head injuries have a severe effect on the brain.
Some of the long-term effects can include:
- difficulties forming new memories
- mood and behavior changes
- increased risk of future brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease
- limited blood flow to the brain
- swelling of the brain
While alcohol use is an indirect cause of the injury, the confusion and disorientation common with alcohol consumption increases the risk of falling, having a car accident, or getting into a fight. All of these actions can lead to a serious brain injury.
7. Alcohol Abuse Causes Long-Term Brain Damage
If left unchecked, alcohol abuse can physically damage the structure of the brain, leading to long-term problems known as alcohol-related dementia.
According to autopsy evidence, as many as 78 percent of people who were diagnosed with alcoholism had loss of white matter and neurons in the brain. This loss can create dementia-like symptoms, including both short-term and long-term memory loss.
Thankfully, the research has also shown that this loss of white matter and neurons is at least partially reversible with abstinence. That’s why getting help for alcohol addiction is so important.
Treating Alcohol Abuse At Turning Point
If you or someone you love is suffering from alcohol use disorder, treatment can actually help your brain start to repair itself.
Turning Point offers an evidence-based treatment program that can help you find relief from alcohol abuse. If you’re struggling with this disorder, prompt treatment is the key to protecting your brain from long-term damage.
Reach out to Turning Point today to learn more about our alcohol treatment program.
- National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism — Alcohol Alert
- National Institutes Of Health — The Influence of Alcohol on Mortality in Traumatic Brain Injury
- National Library Of Medicine — Alcohol-Related Dementia: An Update of the Evidence
- Northwestern Medicine — How Alcohol Impacts the Brain