The Effects Of Ethanol On Social Behavior
If you think about it, its not that surprising that alcohol can influence peoples social behavior. After all, were animals, and our basic need to socialize is as strong as it is basic. What isnt so obvious is the extent to which alcohol affects our social behavior.
There are several theories about why alcohol affects us. One of them is the dopamine theory. According to this theory, the reason alcohol affects us is that it increases the levels of dopamine in our brains.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps us regulate our feelings and emotions. A higher level of dopamine leads to a sense of pleasure and happiness. Therefore we feel happy after drinking alcohol. Another theory is the oxytocin theory. This theory says that alcohol can increase the levels of oxytocin in our brains. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that helps us bond with other people. It can also help us to trust other people.
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
Alcohol Poisoning & Overdose
According to the CDC, an average of 6 people die every day in the U.S. from alcohol poisoning. Many of those deaths are as a result of binge drinking and are not from long-term alcohol use. Just one instance of excessive alcohol intake can result in an overdose, which may lead to brain damage or death.
Binge drinking means to consume a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time and is one of the most common causes of alcohol poisoning. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states binge drinking occurs when an individuals blood alcohol content is at .08 or higher, which is the threshold for legal intoxication in many states.
An overdose happens when more alcohol is consumed than the body can process, causing a toxic build-up. The extreme depressant effect of this much alcohol can cause irregular heartbeat, dangerously low body temperature, and slowed or stopped breathing.
The Mayo Clinic website lists possible indications of alcohol poisoning including confusion, vomiting, seizures, extremely slow breathing , irregular breathing , bluish or pale skin, hypothermia, and unconsciousness. An alcohol overdose is a medical emergency. If suspected, summon help immediately.
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So How Does Alcohol Affect The Brain
Alcohol directly affects neurotransmitters, which control behavior and thought. It is both a depressant and a stimulant. Alcohol depresses your movements, speech, and thoughts. The effects are directly related to the amount of alcohol consumed. However, like many drugs, alcohol also stimulates the release of dopamine in your body, which tricks your body into feeling pleasure and can in turn make you associate drinking alcohol with feeling great. The tricky part here, is that the more you drink alcohol to get that feeling, the less dopamine your body releases. Over time, you end up being mentally hooked, forever in search of that pleasurable feeling you think that alcohol gives you. This is where addictions take hold.
How Does Alcohol Affect Sleep
After a person consumes alcohol, the substance is absorbed into their bloodstream from the stomach and small intestine. Enzymes in the liver eventually metabolize the alcohol, but because this is a fairly slow process, excess alcohol will continue to circulate throughout the body. The effects of alcohol largely depend on the consumer. Important factors include the amount of alcohol and how quickly it is consumed, as well as the persons age, sex, body type, and physical shape.
The relationship between alcohol and sleep has been studied since the 1930s, yet many aspects of this relationship are still unknown. Research has shown sleepers who drink large amounts of alcohol before going to bed are often prone to delayed sleep onset, meaning they need more time to fall asleep. As liver enzymes metabolize the alcohol during their night and the blood alcohol level decreases, these individuals are also more likely to experience sleep disruptions and decreases in sleep quality.
To understand how alcohol impacts sleep, its important to discuss different stages of the human sleep cycle. A normal sleep cycle consists of four different stages: three non-rapid eye movement stages and one rapid eye movement stage.
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Increased Risk Of Head Injuries
If a person regularly drinks too much alcohol, they also have a higher risk of repeated head injuries. While under the effects of alcohol they may fall and hit their head, or receive blows to the head in fights or as victims of violence. Both can cause lasting damage to the brain.
A person with ARBD may experience all of these types of damage. The different types of damage are linked to different types of ARBD. For example, WernickeKorsakoff syndrome is most closely linked with low levels of thiamine .
The Effects Of Ethanol On Attention
As we know, alcohol impairs attention and judgment. However, what is less known is that ethanolthe active ingredient in alcoholic beveragesalso impairs attention and judgment.
A study by neuroscientist Susan Tapert of the University of California, San Diego, found that drinking is linked to a shortened attention span for males and reduced the ability to comprehend and interpret visual information for females.
Your Brain On Alcohol
Your whole body absorbs alcohol, but it really takes its toll on the brain. Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways. It can also affect how your brain processes information.
There are several stages of alcohol intoxication:
How Is Arbd Different From Dementia
ARBD doesnt always get worse over time, unlike common causes of dementia such as Alzheimers disease. If a person with ARBD stops drinking alcohol and receives good support, they may be able to make a partial or even full recovery. They may regain much of their memory and thinking skills, and their ability to do things independently.
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The Effects Of Ethanol On Sleep
Alcohol also increases the level of serotonin in the body, which has the same effect as a natural sleeping pill. The higher serotonin levels can cause a temporary feeling of drowsiness and fatigue.
But what happens to your sleep when you are drinking alcohol? Research shows that alcohol disrupts sleep cycles. The time between REM periods and NREM periods goes down.
Alcohol can make you fall asleep faster. When alcohol is consumed before bedtime, it has a direct effect on the brain. It increases levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is involved in alertness.
It also has a sedative effect. This means that it will make you feel more relaxed and will slow down activity in the parts of the brain that produce feelings of alertness.
Its important to note that it doesnt have any effect on REM sleep, which is what most people want when theyre trying to fall asleep.
Alcohol can also increase the time to fall asleep. The effects of alcohol on your brain are like what happens when you drink coffee. Both caffeine and alcohol act on the same part of the brain that produces feelings of alertness.
But alcohol works more slowly. Because of this, it takes longer to fall asleep.
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.
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The Frontal Lobe: Impulse Control
The limbic system is not the only part of the brain affected by prolonged drug or alcohol abuse. The frontal lobe of the brain also suffers. It shrinks and loses its ability to function properly. This part of the brain regulates decisions, choices, and the ability to know the difference between right and wrong. When the frontal lobe is not working as it should, you cannot control the impulse to drink or take drugs. Ironically the essential part of the brain you would use to change your harmful habits is impaired by those harmful habits and unable to make the proper decisions.
Alcohol And Brain Injury
Brain injury can be caused by alcohol because it:
- has a toxic effect on the central nervous system
- results in changes to metabolism, heart functioning and blood supply
- interferes with the absorption of vitamin B1 , which is an important brain nutrient
- may be associated with poor nutrition
- can lead to falls and accidents that injure the brain.
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What Happens When You Get Drunk
First off, alcohol is a depressant. Its a drug, and regardless of the fact that you see it advertised all around you on a constant basis, it is still a potentially dangerous substance.
Of course, while alcohol or rather its active ingredient, ethanol is a depressant, it actually works in phases. In the first stage, you feel great. Thats because drinking releases dopamine to your brain. Dopamine is the reward substance in your brain that makes you feel good about what youre doing. This is a big part of the reason why alcohol and other drugs seem as pleasant as they do.
While your brain is feeling a high off of your drinking, your stomach and liver are working overtime to process the alcohol and prevent it from getting into your bloodstream. In small quantities, your body can do that, which is why drinks with low alcohol content never get you drunk.
The initial rush usually lasts about a half-hour, and is a big reason why people never stop at just one drink. if youre still drinking consistently, the depressive effects kick in. These effects are the ones that slow movement and reaction speed, and blocks the parts of your brain that work as behavioral inhibitors. This is why people are more prone to making decisions while drunk that they wouldnt have normally.
In extreme cases, drunkenness may lead to a blackout and memory loss. But why is that, and how big of a problem is it?
How Alcohol Affects Our Brain Chemistry
The brain relies on a delicate balance of chemicals and processes. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can disrupt that balance, affecting our thoughts, feelings and actions and sometimes our long-term mental health. This is partly down to neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that help to transmit signals from one nerve in the brain to another.
For example, the relaxed feeling we can experience if we have a drink is due to the chemical changes alcohol has caused in the brain. A drink can make some people feel more confident and less anxious, as the alcohol begins to suppress the part of the brain associated with inhibition.
As we drink more, the impact on our brain function increases. And regardless of the mood were in, with increasing alcohol consumption, its possible that negative emotions will take over, leading to a negative impact on mental health. Alcohol can be linked to aggression and some people report becoming angry, aggressive, anxious or depressed when they drink.
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Cellular Structure: Lost Connections
The cellular structure of the brain is affected by heavy drinking and drug use as well. Weve all heard that drug abuse kills brain cells. The brain has gray cells and white cells, or fibers. The gray cells control thinking and feeling while the white cells provide the connection and communication between the gray cells. They are like network cables passing information from one gray cell to another. Persistent drug and alcohol use has been proven to kill the white cells in the brain. This severs the communication pathways so that information is not passed along properly. The brain can reroute these communication pathways using the remaining white cells, but it requires abstinence and time for this to happen.
These negative effects that drugs and alcohol have on the brain are frightening. But there is good news. If someone can stop drinking or taking drugs completely, the brain begins to heal. With long-term abstinence, cognitive function and brain shrinkage can be reversed, new pathways in the brain can be forged, and a person can return to normal brain function. If someone can learn to live without the drugs or alcohol, here is hope for full physical recovery.
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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.
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.
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Long Term Effects Of Alcohol On The Brain
Many long-term effects of alcohol use can cause permanent damage to the brain, as well as to various organs. With intervention, brain damage may be reversible. Alcohols long-term brain impacts include:
- Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and can damage brain cells. Some of the most dangerous symptoms may include hallucinations and seizures. About 5 percent of those going through withdrawal will experience delirium tremens , the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal.
- Damage to neurotransmitters slows communication between different areas of the brain and reduces energy levels.
- Brain shrinkage is caused by a loss of gray matter, which contains cell bodies, and white matter, which controls cell pathways. A 2017 study published in the British Medical Journal is one of many that has identified a correlation between high alcohol consumption and brain shrinkage.
- Cognitive impairment may affect verbalization, mental processing, memory, learning, concentration, and impulse control. Studies find areas of the brain related to problem solving and impulse control have the highest risk for damage from alcohol. Impairment in this area of the brain may result in alcohol-related dementia.
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.
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