Whether or not alcohol permanently damages the brain or body is an important concern, as alcohol is one of the most highly abused substances in the world. With over half of Americans drinking on a regular basis, the effects of alcohol become not only interesting information, but also a prediction for the damage we could cause ourselves. And, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol abuse is the third leading cause of death in the US.
The most common effects of alcohol abuse are lack of coordination and impaired judgment, but it can also interfere with memory creation and retention. However, this fact only leads to the following questions:
- Can alcohol damage long-term memories?
- Can it prevent the creation of new ones?
- Can this damage be permanent?
- Is alcohol addiction a real danger?
All of these questions can be answered by considering one other question: how does alcohol affect the brain? The answer to these questions can reveal the dangers of alcohol abuse, the possibility of developing alcohol addiction and how to avoid it.
The Effect of Alcohol in the Brain
Researchers continue to explore how alcohol affects the brain, but it is a well-established fact that alcohol causes functional and structural abnormalities in the brain. According to the Oxford University Press journal, pathological and imaging techniques have shown how the function and structure of the brain can be affected in terms of nutritional deficiency and dysfunction with brain damage.
Although most of these effects depend on factors such as the age or general health status of the drinker, it is known that just one session of heavy drinking can cause severe impairments. Furthermore, alcohol addiction is responsible for many cases of debilitating conditions that put sufferers in a state of needing constant care. In other words, alcohol is a dangerous substance regardless of its legal status.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism points out that memory impairment can appear after just a few drinks, and that such impairment becomes more evident with a higher consumption of alcohol. High levels of alcohol in the blood can cause a blackout or memory lapse in which the consumer forgets events completely or in part while intoxicated with alcohol.
One of the most dangerous conditions of brain damage caused by alcohol abuse is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. This disease is caused by a thiamine deficiency mostly affecting long-time alcoholics. The symptoms of this debilitating condition include the following problems:
- Mental confusion
- Problems with muscle coordination
- Paralysis in eye nerves
- Learning and memory problems
- Loss of long-term memories
- Inability to record new memories
The effects of alcohol abuse in the brain are serious, because they can cause brain damage in devastating ways. According to WebMD, mental health losses in middle-aged men can appear six years sooner for heavy drinkers, because they cause more rapid brain aging. Although more research is needed, there may be an association between earlier mental decline and heavy drinking.
Alcohol Addiction and the Options to Overcome It
As mentioned earlier, alcohol addiction or alcoholism is a serious concern that affects many people, but there is much confusion regarding when the problem becomes an addiction.
Addiction is defined as a physical and/or psychological dependence upon a substance that damages the life of the addict and/or her loved ones. The addict, in turn, ignores or disregards such consequences as long as she can continue satisfying her compulsion.
In the case of alcohol and other drugs, medical attention might be necessary in order to overcome the addiction in a safe manner. In this regard, alcohol rehab has been effective not only in treating the symptoms of the disease, but also in assessing the underlying causes of it and offering psychological and emotional support for the alcoholic and his family.
Many support groups are also available for people who are just developing a problem with alcohol; these options can also help people who need additional support while undergoing professional treatment. These meetings focus on moral and emotional support for the addicts, who can benefit greatly by learning from the example of others in similar positions. Participants can also give mutual encouragement to recover while avoiding the setbacks of relapse.
However, it is often difficult to know where to start in recovering from alcohol abuse and addiction. On the other hand, you might wonder how you can help a loved one who is suffering from alcoholism, but is reluctant to admit having a problem. In these cases, the best option is obtaining help from a trained counselor who can explain the options for recovery and where to find them.
Give us a call through our toll-free helpline, and one of our admissions coordinators will gladly give you assistance and advice in these matters. You can learn more about how to find intervention services, Dual Diagnosis treatment, family counseling and more. Our lines are open 24 hours a day, so call now for instant support.