The Effects of Alcohol on the Brain

Effects of alcohol

Indulging in alcohol over a long period can be detrimental to your body in more ways than one. However, the effects are not incurred if you limit the amount that you consume. According to Stephanie Watson from howstuffworks.com, one drink of around 5 ounces of wine in a day would not bring any harm your way.

The Result of Drinking Heavily

It is drinking heavily that can land you in trouble. It is also prudent that you realize that the capacity of the body to withstand alcohol differs, so you need to be rather cautious when it comes to the consumption of this beverage.

Before we move on to discuss the effects that might come your way due to the consumption of alcohol with respect to the brain, let us first talk a bit about the mechanism via which it brings about this action.

Alcohol works as a depressant for the brain. It suppresses the neurotransmitter glutamate while increasing the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA as has been explained by David DiSalvo. Owing to this, various actions of the brain are suppressed and different effects start appearing.

The Damaging Effects

Credit: sites.psu.edu

Due to the suppression of glutamate, various body functions are affected. The consequences that then have to be faced include the likes of difficulty in walking, slurred speech, blurred vision, slow response and impaired memory.

For a person who is not addicted to the beverage and consumes it in moderate quantity, the effects would be temporary and wear off by the time he regains soberness. On the other hand, addicted people will face these effects even while they are sober.

The extent that alcohol will affect the brain depends on a variety of factors. These have been elaborated by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The factors include the frequency of drinks that a person intakes, the age during which he starting drinking and the time that has elapsed since then, the age of the person along with his genetic background and family history, and general health status.

Alcohol leads to the impairment of memory after a few glasses. As the quantity of alcohol increases, the degree of the impairment increases simultaneously. When large amounts are consumed at a time, it can lead to blackouts where the person will fail to recall the chain of events that occurred after drinking.

Studies have revealed that women are at higher risk of incurring ill health effects due to binge drinking than men. There are more cases of nerve damage occurring in women as compared to men.

People who drink a large amount of alcohol are also at increased risk of developing persistent changes to the brain. The effect can be both direct as well as indirect.

Around 80% of alcoholics tend to suffer from a deficiency of thiamine, which can result in severe brain diseases such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. This disease can be divided into two forms: a short-lived one called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and another one are severe and long lasting, which is also known as Korsakoff’s psychosis.

Confusion is characteristic of people suffering from encephalopathy. They might get confused to the extent that they will not be able to get out of a room. In the case of psychosis, memory problems are more persistent. Both syndromes are not exclusive and one can gradually progress to the other stage.

There are different centers in the brain for the purpose of speech, taste, response, hearing, vision and so on. Binge drinking can affect all of these centers, thereby affecting all the activities that form a part of daily life.

Related: Dangerous blood alcohol levels.