As most people know, drinking too much alcohol can cause issues with vision, memory, balance, speech, and coordination. For the most part, these effects wear off after a few hours and a person can go back to normal. However, when someone chronically consumes large amounts of alcohol, their brain can be permanently affected.
Alcohol and The Brain
Alcohol is classified as a depressant, which means it slows down the central nervous system. This can decrease the heart rate and slow breathing, as well as delay reaction time. In the brain, alcohol blocks the signals that neurons send each other to communicate, which is why someone who is drunk seems to have a lot of difficulty with things that would normally be quite easy. For example, memory, speech, and balance are things most people do without thinking about it, but they are some of the most commonly affected skills.
Blackouts are another dangerous side effect of drinking too much. If a person finds themselves unable to recall large portions of what they did or said when they were inebriated, they may face regret and embarrassment, which can lead them to drink more in order to help the feelings fade for a while. For the most part, alcohol and the brain do not mix, so any effects from drinking will likely be unpleasant and unhealthy for the human body.
Effects of Alcohol
Over time, heavy drinking can cause long-lasting damage to both the brain and body. It can lead to “brain shrinkage,” which means that the amounts of gray and white matter in the brain start to become reduced. It will impair brain function, especially higher-order traits that humans have, like problem-solving, planning, and impulse control.
Although alcohol can make people sleepy, it actually disrupts sleep in the long run. It will make a person not sleep as deeply and cause them to wake up several times throughout the night. Sleep deprivation only adds to the effects of alcohol, creating a vicious cycle. Chronic alcoholism also causes damage to areas of the brain that control motor function. Wernicke’s Encephalopathy is a disease caused by heavy drinking that can cause changes in eye movement or the way someone walks. Alcohol and the brain combine in strange ways, so the effects will differ from person to person, but overall, chronic drinking leads to these same issues.
When someone with an alcohol addiction is able to stop drinking, much of their brain can recover. Some of the effects of alcohol may linger, but the brain is still quite resilient. Memory is one aspect that seems to suffer the most, especially in older people. Although memory can be retrained, a chronic drinker might have trouble recalling names or dates. For about 25% of people, the changes alcohol brings about will be permanent, but the sooner alcoholism stops, the better chance someone has of returning their brain to a healthy state.
Where to Find Help
Music City Interventions offers a confidential, professional, and caring approach to intervention services for families and their loved ones affected by addiction or alcoholism in Nashville or across the US. Our goal in alcohol and drug addiction treatment is to discreetly and effectively work with our clients through loving confrontation and intervention for someone suffering from addiction.