Long Term Effects of Alcohol on the Brain
During a night out with friends, most people don’t put much thought into the long term effects of alcohol on the brain. However, regular alcohol abuse can have significant impacts on the way your brain functions.
What Happens During a Single Night of Drinking
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it has a slowing effect on the central nervous system, including the brain. During a night of binge drinking, this slow-down leads to the classic traits of intoxication: impulsivity, stumbling, slurred speech, and slow reflexes.
Of course, the extent of these symptoms depends on a variety of factors, including how many drinks a person has over a certain amount of time, their weight, sex, how much they’ve had to eat, and their tolerance level.
Unless someone drinks to the point of alcohol poisoning, a single night of binge drinking is unlikely to have any lasting effects on the brain. However, once they start binging regularly, things change.
Effects of Regular Heavy Drinking
When people start drinking heavily on a regular basis, the damage to their brain becomes more than just an acute symptom. Prolonged alcohol abuse leads causes the brain to overreact to neurotransmitters, or chemicals that brain cells use to communicate. However, once alcohol leaves the system, the brain continues its heightened level of activity. This overactivity leads to intense withdrawal symptoms that signal dependence.
Over an extended period, this heightened activity can also lead to a condition called neurotoxicity. This occurs after a brain cell has too much exposure to a neurotransmitter, and essentially burns out. This cell loss leads to a slow-down in the brain’s processing speed.
Heavy drinking can also cause the brain to physically shrink. This shrinkage has broad consequences for the brain’s processing power.
Long Term Effects of Alcohol on the Brain: End-Stage Alcoholism
After years and even decades, long term effects of alcohol on the brain become evident. Paired with the malnutrition that is common among alcoholics, long-term heavy alcohol use can result in Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS). This syndrome is actually a combination of two different conditions, Wernicke’s disease (WD) and Korsakoff syndrome.
WKS leads to a variety of symptoms, including:
- Double vision
- Issues with muscle coordination and walking
- Uncontrolled eye movements
As the syndrome progresses into WKS, a variety of memory issues begin to develop. People with WKS may have problems forming words and struggle with processing even simple information. They may also experience hallucinations and craft false memories. Without quick intervention and an addiction treatment program, this condition can lead to permanent brain damage and even death in about 20% of cases.
Alcoholism Treatment at Ocean Recovery
If you’re afraid of becoming a victim of the long term effects of alcohol on the brain, it’s time to seek help. The alcohol addiction treatment program at Ocean Recovery can help you start over. For more information about our alcoholism treatment program, give us a call at 800-641-2388 today.