Due to the large number of functions and its sensitivity to change, the brain is one of the organs in the body most affected by alcohol consumption. This consumption is capable of altering any brain function, including reasoning, emotions, and judgment.
Although each person tolerates this substance from different foams there are a number of effects of alcohol on the brain that everyone experiences to a greater or lesser degree. The effects of these effects and their severity will be explained below.
Individual differences in the effects of alcohol
It is well known that alcohol consumption, both occasional and recurrent, can have many effects on the brain. When this consumption is excessive, due to alcohol problems, it can lead to irreversible brain damage.
However, although common patterns exist, the consequences of alcohol consumption are not the same for everyone; there are considerable differences by age, sex or weight. In all cases, the consequences of the abuse of this type of drink are always seen in the functioning of the nervous system: there are no populations safe from the deterioration of the consumption of this drug.
Here are a number of factors that determine both the form and the degree to which alcohol affects the brain:
- Attendance with which the person consumes alcohol.
- Age at which he began to consume alcohol and the duration of consumption.
- Current age of the person.
- Level of education.
- genetic background.
- Family history of alcoholism.
- Prenatal alcohol exposure.
- General state of health.
- Short and long term effects of alcohol.
Alcohol has the ability to begin to affect the body, however slight, from the very first sip. This means, among other things, that there is no moderate alcohol consumption in a sense meaning “harmless consumption”. All these effects that it causes in the short term are intensified and preserved over time because the consumption becomes more and more frequent, but the wear and tear of the body is present from the first ingestion.
Short-term effects of alcohol on the brain
The first effects that a person who has consumed alcohol at any dose may experience include movement disorders, difficulty walking, slow reaction times, or diffuse speech.
There are also a number of more serious consequences that appear between the first moments of alcohol consumption and hours or even days after ingestion. These effects are as follows.
1. Emotional changes
Alcohol consumption leads to a number of imbalances in brain chemistry that they affect both behavior and thoughts, feelings and emotions. These disturbances in brain chemistry promote the onset of emotional changes such as anxiety, depression or aggression.
Although traditionally people use alcohol as a way to uninhibit themselves, to feel relaxed, or even to be more social and outgoing; Heavy drinking tends to turn these emotions into short-term anxiety, aggression, and sadness or depression.
2. Loss of memory
Alcohol consumption can cause minor damage to the hippocampus. This deterioration is manifested by memory loss, which they may present themselves a few hours after consuming small amounts of alcohol.
However, when this is ingested in large amounts on an empty stomach and for short periods of time, the person may experience forgetfulness of larger time intervals or even complete events.
3. Loss of consciousness
Syncope or loss of consciousness for short periods of time is common in people who drink large amounts of alcohol very quickly. This speed of consumption makes the blood alcohol level skyrocket, causing fainting and loss of consciousness.
Consume alcohol in small and large doses, it can interfere with the prefrontal cortex connections of the brain. This area is responsible for intervening in the impulsiveness of the person, as well as in the organization of his behavior.
When the blood alcohol level begins to rise, the person is likely to experience impulsive behaviors that they probably never would have practiced under sobriety conditions.
However, as aggression changes, these alterations also depend on the predisposition or character of the person. In other words, a person who tends to be aggressive or impulsive in normal situations will be much more likely to suffer from these effects, or to feel them more intensely, than a person who tends to be calm.
Long term effects
As discussed above, any of the long-term effects of alcohol can be sustained over time as consumption changes from one-time to recurring. Some of these long term effects are as follows.
1. Development of emotional disturbances
Excessive alcohol consumption is closely linked to certain illnesses and emotional disorders such as depression or anxiety.
This is due to the fact that the regular ingestion of alcoholic beverages changes serotonin levels in the brain, Specifically tends to decrease them. The decrease in the levels of this neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood promotes the appearance of all kinds of emotional disorders in the person.
2. Limit brain development in adolescents
Consumption is increasingly common at an early age, especially in adolescence. This social consumption can end up interfering with the good brain development of young people.
As a result of these variations, the adolescent may develop transcendent deficits in verbal and non-verbal information seeking and visuospatial functioning.
In addition, since the brain is not fully developed at this stage, adolescents who drink alcohol are at a much higher risk when it comes to developing learning and memory difficulties.
3. Destruction of neurons
In addition to inhibiting brain development during adolescence, alcohol consumption also affects neural development in adulthood.
During this stage, consuming large doses of alcohol prevents the growth of new cells and reduces the number of brain neurons in certain areas of the brain. However, this damage is more visible in specific areas of these nerve cells: axons, extensions that form the wiring of the nervous system.
4. Damage to the hippocampus
As described above, the destruction of neurons can lead to severe damage to the hippocampus. This brain region is responsible for intervening in memory storage, so a series of frequent drunkards or alcohol addiction can permanently damage the brain, impairing the ability to memorize.
This memory storage deficit can be retained even after alcohol addiction is overcome.
Extreme alcohol dependence can lead to a psychotic condition or disorder in people, who he experiences all kinds of hallucinations, paranoia and illusions.
Likewise, if a person with a long history of alcoholism suddenly stops drinking, they may develop alcohol withdrawal syndrome, also known as “delirium tremens”.
This syndrome causes hyperstimulation of the adrenergic system, causing headache, constant restlessness, body tremors, nausea and vomiting, Hallucinations and even death.
6. Syndrome Wernike-Korsakoff
Alcohol dependence causes, in 80% of cases, a deficiency of vitamin B1 or thiamine. This decreases in the Thiamine levels are a risk factor in the development of Wernike-Korsakoff syndrome.
This condition is distinguished because the person simultaneously has Wernike’s encephalopathy and known Korsakoff syndrome. Both diseases have their origin in the lack of this vitamin.
- Álvarez, MJS and Vera, DGZ (2008). Thiamine deficiency: beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Journal of Medicine, 13 (2): p. 137-139.
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- Romeo, J .; Wärnberg, J .; Nova, E .; Diaz, LE; Gómez-Martinez, S .; Marcos, A. (2007). Moderate alcohol consumption and the immune system: a review. The British Journal of Nutrition. 98 Suppl 1: S111 – 115.