Does alcohol permanently damage the brain? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol is responsible for around 88,000 fatalities in the United States each year (CDC). While motor vehicle accidents account for the majority of alcohol-related deaths, additional causes include falls, drownings, homicide, suicide, burns, and sexual or other forms of violence.
Multiple studies have revealed a relationship between excessive alcohol use and impaired brain function, which can lead to dementia, learning and memory impairments, psychiatric illnesses, and other cognitive issues. Chronic alcohol abuse can permanently harm the brain if it is not treated. It is possible to repair this damage and restore the brain with therapy.
Alcohol affects regions of the brain that govern cognitive and motor processes, slowing them down even in the short term. Alcohol affects sleep patterns and impairs memory, judgement, and coordination. Long-term consumption of alcohol may result in irreversible brain damage.
When a person consumes significant amounts of alcohol or does so for an extended length of time, the effects on the body and brain can be fatal. Alcohol has a negative impact on various areas of the brain, as well as the CNS, which comprises the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Because alcohol is a depressant, it can severely restrict respiration and create dangerously low body temperatures.
What Parts of the Brain Are Affected by Alcohol?
Our ideas, emotions, memories, motor functions, temperature, senses, organs, and autonomic processes like breathing are all controlled by the brain. All of these critical brain activities can be negatively impacted by alcohol.
The Cerebral Cortex is our consciousness’s thinking core. It’s where we go to analyse new information and make judgements and conclusions. This function is depressed by alcohol, which slows the intake of sensory information, clouds the thinking process, and lowers inhibitions. The cerebral cortex can be irreversibly damaged by long-term alcohol consumption.
The Cerebellum is the brain’s control centre for movement, coordination, balance, and equilibrium. Alcohol affects this part of the brain, leading us to lose our equilibrium, stumble, and perhaps fall. It may also lead us to tremble our hands.
The Hypothalamus and Pituitary collaborate to connect the neurological and endocrine systems. In order to maintain the body’s internal equilibrium, this area of the brain both activates and suppresses essential hormonal activities. Alcohol affects sexual desire and performance by depressing and disrupting the equilibrium of these systems. The desire to perform may increase, but the capacity to do so may be hampered.
The Medulla is the part of the brain that governs autonomic activities including breathing, consciousness, and body temperature. These essential processes are reduced by alcohol, resulting in drowsiness, slowed respiration, lowered body temperature, and possibly coma. Automatic functions might be life-threatening if they get depressed.
The Hippocampus is in charge of memory. Alcohol has an effect on this region, producing blackouts, memory loss, and a reduction in learning ability. Long-term alcohol abuse can wreak havoc on memory and lead to dementia.
The brain, spinal cord, and nerves make up the Central Nervous System. The transmission of messages to and from these regions is slowed by alcohol, which affects movement, thinking, and speaking.
Does alcohol permanently damage the brain? Alcohol’s Long-Term Effects on the Brain
Many of the long-term consequences of alcohol usage can result in irreversible harm to the brain and other organs. Brain injury may be reversed with the right treatments. The following are some of the long-term effects of alcohol on the brain:
Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, resulting in brain cell damage. Hallucinations and seizures are two of the most serious symptoms. The most severe type of alcohol withdrawal, delirium tremens (DTs), affects around 5% of people going through withdrawal.
Damage to neurotransmitters lowers energy levels and delays communication between different parts of the brain.
The loss of grey matter, which includes cell bodies, and white matter, which regulates cell routes, causes brain atrophy. One of the studies published in the British Medical Journal in 2017 found a link between excessive alcohol intake and brain shrinkage.
Verbalization, mental processing, memory, learning, attention, and impulse control may all be affected by cognitive impairment. Alcohol has the greatest risk of damaging regions of the brain connected to problem solving and impulse control, according to studies. Alcohol-related dementia can be caused by impairment in this region of the brain.
According to Medical News Today, Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is linked to severe thiamine shortage, which results in alcohol-induced brain dysfunction. Confusion, disorientation, malnutrition, jerky eye movements, and poor balance are among symptoms of Wernicke. Memory issues, emotional swings, and a lack of judgement are all common Korsakoff symptoms.
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