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How Can Alcohol Affect Your Brain

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Recovery From Alcohol Abuse

Part 3: How does alcohol affect the brain?

Though recovery can be challenging, research indicates that a focus on sobriety and other healthy life choices can provide a framework for better brain health. The brain is remarkably adaptable and, with proper care and support, can begin to heal from chronic alcohol use in many cases.

When seeking a recovery partner, its important to select a treatment provider who understands how alcohol use disorder impacts the chemistry and makeup of the brain and provides treatment accordingly. Dont be afraid to ask providers directly what level of experience they have with the neuroscience of addiction and how they incorporate brain-focused care into their treatment plans.

At StoneRidge Centers, we understand the connection between alcohol addiction and the brain. This is why we begin our treatment for alcohol addiction with a focus on healing the brain through a combination of innovative, specialized treatment and evidence-based clinical therapy, all overseen by our triple-board-certified medical director.

Contact StoneRidge Centers today to find out how we can help you or a loved one heal the damage caused by alcohol abuse.


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Alcohol Causes Complex Problems In The Brain

Numerous research studies, with animals and human subjects, show that chronic alcohol abuse produces several toxic, metabolic and nutritional factors that interact to cause mental deficits in alcoholics.

Some of these complex factors are still not understood completely:

  • Acetaldehyde, a metabolite of alcohol, could cause toxic effects.
  • Malnutrition, especially thiamine deficiency, could play a role.
  • Cirrhosis of the liver can also cause brain damage.
  • Head injury and sleep apnea can contribute to brain damage.

Head injuries and sleep apnea are more common in alcoholics and can add to brain damage.

Alcohol, thiamine deficiency, and cirrhosis are linked and some researchers believe they contribute in a complex manner to brain damage.

What Parts Of The Brain Does Alcohol Affect

The brain controls our thoughts, emotions, memory, motor functions, temperature, senses, organs, and autonomic activities like breathing. Alcohol can have an adverse health impact on all of these vital brain functions.

  • The Cerebral Cortex is the thinking center of our consciousness. Its where we process incoming information and where we formulate judgments and decisions. Alcohol depresses this function, slowing the input of sensory information, clouding the thought process, and reducing inhibitions. Long-term use of alcohol can permanently damage the cerebral cortex.
  • The Cerebellum is the center of movement, coordination, equilibrium, and balance. Alcohol impairs this brain region, affecting our balance, causing us to be unsteady, stagger, and possibly fall. It may also cause our hands to shake.
  • The Hypothalamus and the Pituitary work together to link the nervous system to the endocrine system. This region of the brain both stimulates and inhibits key hormonal processes in order to maintain the bodys internal balance. Alcohol depresses and disrupts the balance of these systems, as well as impacting sexual desire and performance. Sexual desire may intensify, but the ability to perform may be impaired.
  • The Hippocampus controls the memory. Alcohol affects this area, causing blackouts, memory loss, and impacting the ability to learn. Long-term use of alcohol can permanently affect the memory and can contribute to dementia.

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How Do We Know If It Is A Hangover Or Something More Serious

Medical attention should be sought during prolonged periods of vomiting because that can result in dangerous electrolyte abnormalities and severe dehydration. You should also seek help if there are signs of alcohol poisoning symptoms include decreased or irregular breathing, decreased heart rate, decreased body temperature, stupor, or seizures, recommends Dr. Krel.

For non-emergent situations, most hangovers will pass with time, rest, hydration and Advil for headache relief. Dr. Krel warns that Tylenol is not recommended to treat headaches related to alcohol use, It also metabolizes in the liver and can result in liver toxicity/failure which can be serious.

To mitigate some of the effects of alcohol and prevent or lessen your hangovers, its recommended to limit your alcohol intake, drink water in between drinks, and try to eat foods with a high fat content to decrease alcohol absorption, guides Dr. Krel.

The material provided through Health Hub is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

The Science Of The Sauce: What Happens To Your Brain When You Drink Alcohol

How the Weekend can Effect your Brain

The consumption of alcohol directly influences specific processes of the brain, the command center of the body, which results in feeling inebriated. Breaking down the science of being buzzed, Regina Krel, M.D., headache medicine specialist at the Headache Center at the Neuroscience Institute at Hackensack University Medical Center, shares an inside look at what happens to your brain when you drink, as well as the side effects afterwards.

Scientifically speaking, whats happening in your body as youre getting drunk?

Once you start consuming alcohol, your liver begins breaking it down. An enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase is responsible for breaking down alcohol to acetaldehyde and that is then further broken down to acetic acid, notes Dr. Krel. Getting drunk occurs when you consume alcohol faster than you can break it down.

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Understanding Alcoholic Blackouts And Memory Problems

Blackouts generally occur because the person has had too much to drink in too short a period of time. But you already knew that. Alcohol, in too large a quantity, impairs the brains ability to transfer memories from short-term to long-term memory, which is why people who blackout may be unable to remember large parts of their time intoxicated.

However, one thing worth noting is that blackouts are not exactly caused by a large amount of alcohol consumption. They are, specifically, caused by a sharp spike in blood-alcohol content. In other words, youre more like to blackout having six drinks in one hour than if you had 10 drinks slowly over the course of several hours.

Taking Alcohol With Other Drugs

Drinking alcohol at the same time as taking other drugs, including medicine, can be very risky. This is because alcohol can:

  • increase the side effects of other drugs
  • reduce the effect of medicine such as antibiotics or diabetes medicine
  • hide the effect of a drug or medicine.

Find out more about alcohol and medications.

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What Should You Do

If youre a moderate or light drinker trying to decide whether to cut back for health reasons, you probably want to consider a variety of factors:

  • Moderate drinking still seems to be good for your heart. More than 100 observational studies have linked moderate drinking to a reduced risk of heart attack, ischemic stroke, peripheral vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, and death from all cardiovascular causes.
  • Moderate drinking has also been associated with a lower risk of gallstones and diabetes.
  • For women, even moderate drinking can increase the risk of breast cancer. If youre a woman at average risk, a drink per day can increase your lifetime risk of breast cancer from 8.25% to 8.8%
  • The social and psychological benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. One thing health statistics havent measured is the enjoyment of moderate drinking. It is fine to enjoy a glass of wine as the perfect accompaniment to a good dinner, or celebrate a happy occasion with a cocktail with friends.

Hard Wiring Of The Brain Shrinks

How Alcohol Can Affect Your Brain

The gray matter of the brain in the cerebral cortex controls most of the brain’s complex mental functions. The cortex is filled with neurons that connect by fibers to different regions of the brain and to other neurons inside the brain and spinal cord. The nerve fibers are the white matter of the brain or the “hard-wiring.”

These nerve fibers have shorter, more numerous fibers called dendrites that branch out like the roots of a tree to allow the neurons to “talk” with other neurons. A neuron can communicate with as few as five or as many as 10,000 other neurons at a time.

These two parts of the brainthe white matter or hard wiring and the dendritesare the ones most affected by the shrinkage that alcoholism can cause.

Of course, brain shrinkage is not the only damage alcohol abuse can do to the brain. Alcohol can cause chemical changes in the brain that affect the function of the neurotransmitters.

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Frontal Lobe And Prefrontal Cortex

This part is responsible for problem-solving, impulse inhibition, goal setting, decision making, judgment, social conduct among other functions. Effects of alcoholism cause this region to shrink and reduce in mass while lowering the number of neurons within the prefrontal cortex. This causes drastic changes in personality and emotions.

How Long Alcohol Stays In Your Blood

Drinking more than one standard drink per hour will increase your BAC. The faster you drink, the higher your BAC.

When you stop drinking, your BAC will keep rising as the alcohol in your stomach goes into your blood.

The only way to lower your BAC is time. The more drinks you have, the more time you need.

You cannot remove alcohol from your blood by vomiting, having a cold shower or drinking coffee.

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Yes As Alcohol Typically Contains A Lot Of Excess Calories But Thats Not The Only Reason Why You Might End Up With A Beer Belly

Alcohol interferes with your regular energy mechanism. Once alcohol is in your body, it will become a preferred source of fuel. This means you will burn off any alcohol in your system as a priority before your body goes back to its daily business of burning fat and processing proteins and carbohydrates.

A study has shown that drinking excess alcohol decreased total body fat oxidation by 79%, protein oxidation by 39%, and almost completely abolished the 249% rise in carbohydrate oxidation. In other words, your body is busy working on processing the alcohol, and cant burn any excess energy. As a result you will put on weight.

Where To Get Help

  • Your doctor
  • A neuropsychologist, neurologist or AOD treatment service
  • arbias specialist services for people with acquired brain injury including alcohol and substance related brain impairment Tel. 8388 1222
  • Family Drug Help for information and support for people concerned about a relative or friend using drugs Tel. 1300 660 068

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What The Study Said

A team of researchers from University of Oxford looked at data from 424 men and 103 women who are participating in the 10,000-person Whitehall Study, an ongoing investigation of the relationship of lifestyle and health among British civil servants. At the beginning of the study in 1985, all of the participants were healthy and none were dependent on alcohol. Over the next 30 years, the participants answered detailed questions about their alcohol intake and took tests to measure memory, reasoning, and verbal skills. They underwent brain imaging with MRI at the end of the study.

When the team analyzed the questionnaires, the cognitive test scores, and the MRI scans, they found that the amount of shrinkage in the hippocampus the brain area associated with memory and reasoning was related to the amount people drank. Those who had the equivalent of four or more drinks a day had almost six times the risk of hippocampal shrinkage as did nondrinkers, while moderate drinkers had three times the risk. However, the only link between drinking and cognitive performance was that heavy drinkers had a more rapid decline in the ability to name as many words beginning with a specific letter as possible within a minute.

The Impact Of Alcohol

Overall, alcohol is linked to over 200 diseases, conditions, and injuries. In 2010, alcohol abuse was responsible for 2.8% of all deaths in the US. While it can take years of heavy drinking for diseases like alcohol-related brain damage to appear, negative effects on the brain materialize after only a few drinks.

As an individual consumes alcohol, he or she will begin to feel the depressant effects it has on the brain. As the bodys control center, the impairing effects of alcohol quickly impede the normal function of areas all over the body. Short-term symptoms indicating reduced brain function include difficulty walking, blurred vision, slowed reaction time, and compromised memory. Heavy drinking and binge drinking can result in permanent damage to the brain and nervous system.

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A Change In Body Temperature

Alcohol widens your blood vessels, making more blood flow to your skin. That makes you blush and feel warm and toasty. But not for long. The heat from that extra blood passes right out of your body, causing your temperature to drop. On the other hand, long-term, heavy drinking boosts your blood pressure. It makes your body release stress hormones that narrow blood vessels, so your heart has to pump harder to push blood through.

Behaviours Linked With Arbi

How Alcohol Affects Your Brain And Body

Those people close to someone with ARBI may face a range of behaviours that cause problems. There are a number of possible causes or reasons for these types of behaviour, including medical problems, memory and thinking problems, physical discomfort, the side effects of medication or fatigue from lack of sleep. Alternatively, behaviours of concern may be a reaction to stress, anxiety, or a change or upset to daily routine.Some common behaviours include:

  • untidiness and poor hygiene habits
  • sexually inappropriate behaviour

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Calculate Around Two Hours For Each Pint Of Beer / Glass Of Wine / Shot

If youre reading this after a particularly heavy night out and are starting to worry about how long youll have to live with the consequences for, dont worry! Most people pass the alcohol through their system relatively quickly, meaning your body wont be under the effects of alcohol for too long.

How quickly your body will be able to remove alcohol from your system depends on your gender and your weight. Someone weighing 70kg should expect to be able to remove around 7g of alcohol per hour, which means that it should take just about two hours to remove one pint of beer from your system.

While this is happening, your bodys likely to feel dehydrated, and also to start noticing the lack of other nutrients that youd normally be feeding it with that youve substituted with a night at the pub. This is called a hangover. Drink water and eat healthy and nutritious meals until you start to feel better again. Its also not a good idea to start doing any vigorous exercise until your bodys 100% back to normal, as youll need your thermoregulation and aerobic fuel supplies to be fully restored. So you may want to skip the gym the day after youre recovering from a heavy night of drinking.

Pancreas Damage And Diabetes

Normally, this organ makes insulin and other chemicals that help your intestines break down food. But alcohol jams that process up. The chemicals stay inside the pancreas. Along with toxins from alcohol, they cause inflammation in the organ, which can lead to serious damage. After years, that means you wonât be able to make the insulin you need, which can lead to diabetes. It also makes you more likely to get pancreatic cancer.

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Does Alcohol Affect Your Intelligence

Another study from the United States, of a population 14to 21 years of age, showed, on a measure of verbalintelligence, that lower verbal intelligence wasassociated with lower alcohol consumption, but also with ahigher risk of alcohol-related problems among those whoconsumed alcohol .

Also question is, can alcohol lower your IQ?

IQ tests done upon conscription, alcoholintake, pattern of drinking, tobacco use, and medicalconditions were all examined. The results showed that menwith lower results on their IQ test consumed higherlevels of alcohol, leading the team to conclude that”a higher IQ results in healthier lifestylechoices”.

Secondly, how does alcohol affect the esophagus? Exposure of the esophagus and stomach toalcohol may cause direct damage to esophagealand gastric mucosae. In addition, toxic acetaldehyde metalized fromalcohol could affect the function of theesophagus and stomach.

Also Know, can alcohol mess with your brain?

ALCOHOL’S DAMAGING EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN.Difficulty walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reactiontimes, impaired memory: Clearly, alcohol affects thebrain. On the other hand, a person who drinks heavilyover a long period of time may have brain deficits thatpersist well after he or she achieves sobriety.

How does alcohol affect your mental health?

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Straight Spirits Often Have Less Sugar Than Cocktails Mixers Beer Or Wine But Have Much Higher Volumes Of Alcohol Which Makes It Harder To Moderate Your Consumption

The Truth about What Alcohol Does to Your Body ...

Some people opt for drinking spirits such as vodka, gin or whiskey over lower-alcohol options such as wine or beer because they see these to be healthier options. These spirits in particular are free of sugars and carbohydrates, which means that they contain a lower quantity of calories than sugar-rich wine or beer, making them good options for people on diets such as keto.

However, it is important to bear in mind that the concentration of alcohol in spirits is much higher than in beer or wine. A 50ml measure of vodka contains around the same amount of alcohol as a pint of 4% beer.

Therefore, you may find it harder to keep track of how much alcohol youre consuming when drinking relatively small measures of spirits, compared with large pints of beer. That means that if youre not careful, drinking spirits may lead to you consuming excessive amounts of alcohol than when drinking beer or wine.

The big difference is really to be seen in your blood glucose levels. While drinking spirits may lead to lower glucose levels and even hypoglycemia, drinking carb and sugar-rich beer and wine may lead to the opposite effect. To see how this affects you individually, we recommend that next time you head to the bar with your friends, you monitor your glucose levels using a continuous glucose monitor and track your data on HELLO INSIDEs app.

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