Consuming alcohol can slow down the normal function of areas all over the body. Because the brain controls everything going on in your body, alcohol can make it hard to walk, blur your vision, slow down your reaction time, and impair your memory. It is very important that you get into treatment for alcoholism quickly before you experience permanent damage to your brain and nervous system.
How Alcohol Leads to Brain Damage
If someone is a heavy drinker or have been binge drinking five or more days in the past month, you have a better chance of experiencing permanent brain damage. Alcohol when consumed travels from the stomach to the intestines through the bloodstream to different organs. When there is too much alcohol consumed, the liver will take longer to process the alcohol, leading the alcohol to travel to the heart and the central nervous system. Alcohol then moves to the blood-brain barrier which directly affects the brain’s neurons. Because alcohol is toxic, drinking alcohol can damage or kill neurons.
The reason that alcohol is considered a depressant is that it slows down brain signals between neurons. Automatic brain processes controlled by the cerebellum and the cerebral cortex are impaired or slow like your breathing, processing new information, and balance. When your GABA transmitters are slowed down, your speech is slurred as well as your reaction times and movements. Damage to the area of the brain that is responsible for memory, the hippocampus, leads to short-term memory and brain cell death. Constant blackouts can lead to the brain not being able to produce new memories.
Alcohol-Related Brain Impairment
Heavy drinkers and beer drinkers can experience impairments like reckless behavior, depression, poor memory, lack of judgment, poor coordination, etc. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, long-term heavy drinking can shrink the size of your brain and cause the inner cavity to get bigger which is what causes these impairments to occur.
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, also called “wet brain,” is brain damage that comes from constant, heavy exposure to alcohol. Because alcoholics have a poor diet, they become malnourished which leads to Vitamin B1 deficiency since alcohol blocks the ability to absorb or use the vitamin. The first stage of wet brain is caused by the biochemical legions of the nervous system. These lesions lead to poor muscle coordination, confused mental state, and problems with eye control movement. The second stage is permanent damage on the part of the brain that is responsible for memory. This can mean having severe brain loss, trouble making new memories, and visual and auditory hallucinations.
Hepatic Encephalopathy is brain damage caused by liver failure. Because alcohol causes the liver to fail to screen the toxins out of the bloodstream for the health of the body, the liver is overworked and damaged when trying to rid the blood of alcohol. Since the body does not have help from the liver, the alcohol makes its way to the brain causing slurred speech, sudden mood changes, disorientation, and coma in severe cases.
When Alcohol-Related Brain Damage Occurs
According to the Alcohol Rehab Guide, brain damage as a result of alcohol can occur after 10-20 years of heavy drinking. Because women have a smaller body size than men, they can develop brain damage in a shorter timespan. The age group that is most commonly diagnosed is in people between 45-60 since it takes longer for symptoms to appear. Normally when patients receive a diagnosis of brain damage, the damages done by alcohol are permanent.
Hope for Alcohol-Related Brain Treatment
It is important to know that everyone’s brain is different as well as the extent that others have drunk. In early intervention and treatment, some brain impairment can be halted or reversed. For those with wet brain syndrome, you can take thiamine and vitamin supplements to improve your brain function. Early diagnosis can halt alcohol-related brain damage and lifestyle changes can reverse the deterioration. The first step is to quit alcohol as soon as you or the people around you realize that you have a problem.
In 2004, the University of North Carolina did a study to show new brain cell development as a result of abstinence from alcoholism. They examined the brain cell growth in adult rats that were given alcohol over four days that produce alcohol dependence. The team saw that alcohol dependency slowed down brain cell development. Within four to five weeks of alcohol abstinence, an increase in new cell growth developed in the hippocampus which included a new burst of brain cell growth on the seventh day of abstinence. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism believes that getting a patient to exercise in early recovery as well as encouraging them to take themselves out of social isolation is better than only focusing on the psychological issues related to alcoholism. New cell growth has the potential to occur as a result of increased physical activity, learning experiences and medications like antidepressants.
People do not seem to understand how important coordination, memory, the use of your five senses, and having a healthy brain is until you suffer permanent brain damage wishing you could have gone to early recovery when you had the chance. By abstaining from alcohol and admitting yourself to detox as well as inpatient or outpatient rehab, you can continue to have a healthy brain and live a healthy life.
Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will achieve lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.