Alcoholism is a chronic disease that has a negative influence on the body, especially on the brain. Ethanol, as a small liposoluble molecule, has a great potential for spreading through the cell membrane of neurons, placenta, and blood vessels. It affects many different receptors located inside or on the surface of the cell.
Alcohol influence on the brain
An important characteristic of ethanol, the main ingredient of alcoholic drinks, is the ability to bind to different types of cell receptors in the organism. It represents a completely different and more powerful binding mechanism when compared to drugs.
Ethanol slows down neuron and brain activity. It affects the brain negatively and aggressively influencing the physiological metabolism and increasing the effects of acetylcholine, glutamate, and GABA, causing sleepiness, reduced reflexes, and aggressive behavior.
Alcohol accelerates the dopamine level in the small part of the brain connected to the feeling of satisfaction – nucleus accumbens. Drinking alcoholic beverages creates a sense of pleasure, happiness, and relaxation, thus causing addiction. Continuous consumption causes the need for everyday alcohol intake to maintain homeostasis and balance in the concentration of ethanol that brings a sense of satisfaction.
Regular alcohol consumption leads to increased tolerance; the brain is constantly forced to achieve a new balance. When an alcoholic stops drinking, the temporary balance of his/her brain is broken.
The moment before an alcoholic begins to drink alcohol in the morning, his/her situation is manifested through nervousness, confusion, anxiety, sweating, and tachycardia to name a few. This way, the brain of the consumer understands that it is possible to return to a “normal equilibrium” only after consuming alcohol, and at the same time, the effect of satisfaction in the brain is created.
The worst stage of alcoholism is when a person interprets objects by constructing pictures, confused by visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations due to alcohol withdrawal. This phenomenon is known as delirium tremens.
What part of the brain does alcohol affect? Is alcohol related to brain damage?
Nowadays, modern techniques allow us to record and compare the data the researchers collect when measuring brain damage caused by alcohol in people who are active consumers.
The collected data provided information about significantly reduced brain glucose metabolism, which is the only source of brain energy. Between the brain and blood, there is a special physiological barrier that protects the organism from bacteria, viruses, and toxic products of decomposition.
As an excellent solvent, ethanol easily penetrates through this barrier, enters the brain and accumulates mainly in the small brain. Ethanol affects the small brain, which is responsible for movement coordination and balance. The brain cortex is responsible for the ability to plan something, to think, to make decisions among the many other neuro functions.
Alcohol prevents us from recognizing the objects, making it difficult to focus on something concrete and ultimately causes a problem with memory. In accordance with this, the long-term use of ethanol reduces intellectual levels. It also affects the amygdala and hypothalamus, and that’s why people injure themselves without being aware of it until the next day.
The brain controls the respiratory function, consciousness, and body temperature. After excessive consumption, the toxic activity of alcohol causes sleepiness, and in some cases, the loss of consciousness. In addition to the negative effects on the brain itself, alcohol also has a negative impact on blood vessels. Under the influence of ethanol, they expand and then narrow down, which can lead to serious health problems such as stroke and in the worst case, death.
Is alcohol brain damage reversible?
Although it has been assumed that the damage to brain function in alcoholics is permanent, scientists have come to the conclusion that the recovery of neurons is possible during the period of alcohol abstinence. MRI scans of the brain show an increase in gray volume after seven and a half months of abstinence.
This is in favor of a recent claim that the number of neurons may increase during a lifetime. Recovery of the brain during abstinence should be facilitated by a proper diet, enhanced physical activity, and active social life. During the period of alcohol abstinence, some medications, such as antidepressants, may be helpful.
Alcoholism is a widespread problem that society does not pay much attention to. Understanding the negative consequences alcoholism has on an individual’s physical and mental health is of great significance. We need to be educated more about how to help people with alcohol addiction in order to truly help someone struggling with this type of addiction.
If you have any questions or want to know more about the treatment options we provide, please feel free to contact Fountain Hills Recovery.
Call us now at 888.549.4037 to begin your journey to full recovery.