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Ways Alcohol Impairs Your Brain

Image symbolizing ways that alcohol impairs brain function

When you drink alcohol, it’s absorbed into your bloodstream and affects your brain, spinal cord, and other tissues. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down the activity of your brain and nervous system. Understanding the ways alcohol impairs brain function can help you make safer choices about drinking.

Drinking alcohol can have short-term effects, such as feeling relaxed and happy. But it can also have more serious short-term effects, such as feeling sick or confused. Drinking too much alcohol can also lead to long-term health problems, such as liver damage. If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction, don’t try to quit drinking on your own. Seek professional help from our Mississippi alcohol treatment to get on the road to recovery. Call us today at 662.222.2989 to learn more.

7 Ways Alcohol Impairs the Brain

1. Alcohol Causes Euphoria

Consuming alcohol leads to an increase in dopamine levels, which triggers a sense of pleasure or euphoria, contributing to relaxation. However, even at this initial stage, alcohol negatively impacts brain function. Alongside the euphoric sensation, there’s a slight but noticeable decline in memory and reasoning skills. Just a moderate amount of alcohol can induce these effects, complicating decision-making processes and increasing the danger of driving.

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. When these two areas suffer from alcohol exposure, you may struggle to walk. This can also cause a 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

Up to 80% 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
  • 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

A troubling impact of alcohol on the brain is the development of dependency. With frequent alcohol consumption, the brain grows accustomed to its effects, necessitating increased amounts to achieve the same state. This leads to powerful cravings. Once dependency sets in, individuals may persist in drinking despite experiencing significant mental and physical distress. Ceasing alcohol intake can result in delirium tremens or other intense withdrawal symptoms, showcasing the severe nature of alcohol dependence.

6. Alcohol Increases the Risk of Traumatic Brain Injury

People who drink heavily are more likely to experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A TBI is caused by a blow to the head that disrupts the brain’s normal function. TBIs can cause a wide range of problems, including:

  • Mood and behavior changes
  • Increased risk of future brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease
  • Limited blood flow to the brain
  • Swelling of the brain
  • Death

While alcohol use is an indirect cause of the injury, the confusion and disorientation common with alcohol consumption increase the risk of falling, having a car accident, or getting into a fight. All of these actions can lead to serious brain injury.

7. Alcohol Use Causes Long-Term Brain Damage

If left unchecked, alcohol use 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% 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 Use Disorder at Woodland Recovery Center

If you or someone you love is suffering from alcohol use disorder, treatment for alcohol use disorder can actually help your brain start to repair itself. Woodland Recovery Center offers an evidence-based treatment program that can help you find relief from alcohol use.

If you’re struggling with this disorder, prompt treatment is the key to protecting your brain from long-term damage. Call Woodland Recovery Center today at 662.222.2989 or use our online contact form to learn more about our alcohol treatment program.