Damages! That’s all that alcohol does to the brain. And this is coincidentally the primary reason why alcohol consumers use it in the first place. Alcohol shuts off certain processes in the brain and numbs the person as well, ultimately causing damage.
Slurred speech, impulsive behaviour, poor memory, and slowed reflexes are some of the notable characteristics of someone under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol consumption can be quite pleasant to experience during the moment, but it’s important to be aware of what this does to the brain.
Alcohol blocks neurons that are responsible for transmitting information between different parts of the brain. Neurons play a huge role in memory and keep the brain healthy and functional as well. If one consumes too much alcohol the person can have a so-called “blackout.”
Even when the alcohol leaves the person’s system since the brain has adapted to the state of ‘numbness’ it will overcompensate and react more heavily to the stimuli. This is particularly the reason why a hangover can be so unpleasant because feelings of nausea and pain are experienced more intensely. Sounds seem louder and light appears brighter. These are just the symptoms of someone having a hangover. Much worse damage happens to a heavy drinker.
Impact of alcohol on the brain
Many things can happen when the brain is overexposed to alcohol.
- Destruction of neurons
The first reaction is neurotoxicity. Because the neurons get overstimulated for too long, they can eventually reach their maximum capacity and be destroyed. Neurons are extremely vital for a healthy brain. Reduction in their number due to alcohol consumption can make the brain worse at everything it does.
- Brain shrinkage
A second potential side effect of heavy drinking is the ‘shrinking’ of the brain. Brain shrinkage is accelerated by heavy drinking. The white matter in the brain reduces in size leading to a reduced brain capacity. A person who is exposed to alcohol for a long period no longer ‘recognizes’ the person they once were. This is because parts of the brain that make a person who they are can get destroyed and shrunk away by heavy alcohol use over long periods.
- Blackouts and memory lapses
Alcohol creates detectable impairments in memory just after a few drinks and, as the number of alcohol increases, so does the degree of impairment. Large quantities of alcohol, especially if consumed quickly and on an empty stomach, produce a blackout, or an interval of time for which the intoxicated person cannot recall key details of events or even entire events.
Alcoholics experience different degrees of impairment. But the good news is that most alcoholics with cognitive impairment show at least some improvement in brain structure and functioning within a year of abstinence, though some people take much longer.
A variety of treatment methods are available that help people stop drinking and to recover from alcohol–related brain impairments. Advanced technology has an important role in developing these therapies. Brain–imaging techniques help to monitor the course and success of treatment, as imaging can reveal structural, functional, and biochemical changes in living patients over time.
Promising new medications also help prevent alcohol’s harmful effects and promotes the growth of new brain cells to take the place of those that have been damaged by alcohol.