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Is Alcohol Bad For Your Brain

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How Alcohol Blackout Causes Extreme Memory Loss

Is Alcohol Bad For Your Brain?

Teens and young adults are at high risk for alcohol-induced blackout drinking to the point of having little or no memory of blocks of time.

During a blackout you may still be able to talk, party, and even drive a car, but what you cant do is form new long-term memories.

The morning after you may not remember last nights party not because you forgot, but because you never formed memories of it in the first place.

From Cradle To Grave Alcohol Is Bad For The Brain

Megan Brooks

There is “compelling” evidence of the harmful effects of alcohol on the brain. The greatest risk occurs during three periods of life that are marked by dynamic brain changes, say researchers from Australia and the United Kingdom.

The three periods are

  • Gestation , which is characterized by extensive production, migration, and differentiation of neurons, as well as substantial apoptosis

  • Later adolescence , a period marked by synaptic pruning and increased axonal myelination and

  • Older adulthood , a period associated with brain atrophy. Changes accelerate after age 65, largely driven by decreases in neuron size and reductions in the number of dendritic spines and synapses.

These changes in neurocircuitry could increase sensitivity to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol, Louise Mewton, PhD, Center for Healthy Brain Aging, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, and colleagues say.

“A life course perspective on brain health supports the formulation of policy and public health interventions to reduce alcohol use and misuse at all ages,” they write in an editorial December 4 in The BMJ.

What Alcohol Can Do To Your Health

Do you indulge in a glass of wine every now and then? You are not alone. More than 85% of adults report drinking alcohol at some point. In 2020, alcohol consumption in the U.S. spiked, with heavy drinking increasing by 41% among women.

While having a drink from time to time is unlikely to cause health problems, moderate or heavy drinking can impact the brain. And, alcohol abuse can cause deficits over time.

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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:

  • Subliminal intoxication. With a blood alcohol content between 0.01 0.05, this is the first stage of intoxication. You may not look like you have been drinking, but your reaction time, behavior and judgment may be slightly altered. Depending on weight, most men and women enter this stage after one drink.
  • Euphoria. During the early stages of drinking, your brain releases more dopamine. This chemical is linked with pleasure. During euphoria, you may feel relaxed and confident. But, your reasoning and memory may be slightly impaired. Often referred to as “tipsy,” this stage occurs when your BAC is between 0.03 and 0.12.
  • Excitement. At this stage, with a BAC from 0.09 to 0.25, you are now legally intoxicated. This level of intoxication affects the occipital lobe, temporal lobe and frontal lobe in your brain. Drinking too much can cause side effects specific to each lobe’s role, including blurred vision, slurred speech and hearing, and lack of control, respectively. The parietal lobe, which processes sensory information, is also affected. You may have a loss of fine motor skills and a slower reaction time. This stage is often marked by mood swings, impaired judgment, and even nausea or vomiting.
  • Does Alcohol Kill Brain Cells

    What Are The Effects Of Alcohol On Your Body, Brain Heart ...

    A common expression to warn people to cut back on harmful behaviors is that they will kill their brain cells. As weve seen earlier, alcohol can fundamentally reshape and rewire the brain, but does it actually kill brain cells themselves?

    Research from Harvard Medical School found that drinking damages the brains white matter, or tissue deep inside the brain that helps us process thoughts and governs movement, as well as transmits messages between the nervous system and other regions of the brain.

    While Parkinsons Disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure can also damage white matter, alcohol can speed up this cumulative damage. Researchers found that alcohol particularly damaged white matter in parts of the brain that are responsible for controlling impulses, making it less likely that individuals will be able to cut back or quit drinking.

    Luckily, researchers did see one glimmer of hope, as it appeared that this damaged white matter could potentially heal if drinkers quit drinking before they reached the age of 50.

    While individuals who have consumed alcohol on a chronic basis for many years are at high risk of this type of damage, the risk is not limited to long-term drinkers.

    An additional study found that damage to the brains white matter resulted in slower, less efficient thinking which can impact individuals for long periods of time, especially if they sustained alcohol-related damage to their brains at a younger age.

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    The Effects Of Red Wine And Resveratrol On The Brain

    No discussion about alcohols effects the brain would be complete without taking a closer look at red wine, its active compound resveratrol, and the Mediterranean diet.

    Which of these or combination of these is responsible for the reported health and cognitive benefits?

    Of all alcoholic beverages, red wine has by far the best reputation as a healthy drink due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

    And red wine is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet.

    But theres no reason to believe that you can isolate red wine from the rest of the Mediterranean diet and expect to get similar health benefits.

    Dan Buettner is a National Geographic explorer, renowned longevity expert, and author of the bestseller The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Whove Lived the Longest.

    According to Buettner, there are several factors responsible for the pockets of longevity and low incidences of depression and dementia found in places like Ikaria, Greece and Sardinia, Italy.

    Its not red wine nor even the Mediterranean diet alone that makes these people the healthiest and most long-lived on the planet.

    Its their entire healthy lifestyle package less stress, more exercise, more time spent outdoors, better social connections, and a strong purpose in life.

    Positive Effects Of Alcohol On The Brain And Memory

    Its well established that moderate drinkers are healthier and live longer than both their teetotaling and heavy-drinking counterparts.

    Theres plenty of evidence that moderate alcohol consumption is good for your overall brain health and function as well.

    Its not exactly understood how alcohol reduces the risk of cognitive decline and memory loss, but its likely due to its significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

    Alcohol plays a positive role in the traditional diets of some of the longest-lived people in the world.

    ” Seniors aged 75 and older decrease their risk of dementia by up to 60% and Alzheimers by over 40% by continuing to drink moderately.

    It is regularly consumed in several countries with the most centenarians France, Spain, Italy, and Japan.

    Regardless of what alcoholic beverages you prefer, theres evidence that consuming alcohol in general offers health benefits, particularly when consumed in moderation with a meal.

    Red Wine

    Red wine is an integral part of the daily diet in both France, Spain, and Italy.

    It protects against heart disease, diabetes, and chronic inflammation, all of which can adversely affect your brain and your memory.

    Chronic inflammation is an underlying cause of memory loss and slow mental processing as well as serious neurological diseases such as stroke and Alzheimers.

    Once consumed, red wine breaks down into metabolites that protect brain cells from dying under stressful situations.

    Sake

    Beer

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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.

    You Skimp Out On Sleep

    How Bad Is Heavy Drinking on the Brain?

    Kick insomnia to the curb, for the sake of your brain’s health. According to Daane, “One study showed a single 90-minute reduction in sleep decreased performance and alertness by a whopping 32%.” The long-term effects aren’t pretty either. “Another study showed that a chronic lack of sleep caused significant decreases in brain volume and memory. Curious what you can do to improve your own sleep habits? Check out our list of 25 Doctor’s Own Tips for Better Sleep.

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    You Live In A Big City

    You may not be able to choose where you reside, but you should be aware of the potential impact it has on your brain. Breathing polluted air leads to a decrease in the amount of oxygen that reaches your brain. Since oxygen is essential for brain function, a decrease in the air quality can also mean a decrease in your brain’s efficiency. A recent study by the The University of Toronto found that people living near road pollution had a 12 percent greater risk of developing dementia compared to peers that resided in a more remote location.

    How Chronic Alcohol Abuse Damages The Brain

    People of all ages who chronically abuse alcohol can develop alcohol-related brain damage, also called alcohol-related brain impairment .

    Typical symptoms are memory loss, an inability to learn new things and follow conversations, and becoming mentally muddled and mixing up pieces of information.

    Heavy drinkers report significantly more memory problems than light drinkers.

    They are more likely to miss appointments, forget birthdays, leave appliances on, and misplace everyday items.

    Another side effect of chronic alcohol abuse is malnutrition.

    Alcohol abuse can lead to a deficiency in thiamine resulting in a neurological disorder known as Wernickes encephalopathy .

    If caught in time, WE can be reversed with thiamine supplementation, but if left untreated, it can lead to anterograde amnesia, a neurological disorder characterized by serious memory loss.

    Alcohol abusers are often unrealistic about their memory loss and think their memory is much better than it actually is.

    Friends and family are usually much better judges of the severity of the problem.

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    Poor Judgement And Decision Making

    We often hear that teenagers can be quick to react, make seemingly poor decisions or act in an irrational way. This is because the pre-frontal cortex of their brain, responsible for things like rational thinking, planning, personality, impulse control and language, is still maturing.

    The pre-frontal cortex is also affected by the consumption of alcohol, which is why people who have been drinking might become irrational, overly confident or less inhibited. When a developing adolescent brain comes into contact with alcohol, not only is the pre-frontal cortex still in the process of maturing, but the alcohol might damage these brain cells.

    Pre-frontal cortex damage could affect how well you make judgements as you move into adulthood.

    It Can Cause Birth Defects In Your Baby

    Alcohol

    Theres a reason that doctors tell pregnant women not to drink. While a beer or two isnt automatically fatal for a developing fetus, it isnt giving them any health benefits at all, and its increasing the possibility of birth defects.

    Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders can cause everything from abnormal facial features to learning disabilities later in life. They can also be the source of growth delays, mood disorders and compromised immune systems.

    All of this comes from the fact that alcohol travels through the mothers system and into the fetuss. If youre a pregnant woman taking shots, its like your fetus is taking shots with you.

    Try to steer clear of alcohol during your pregnancy. Even if your doctor gives you the go-ahead for light drinks with dinner, you never know when youll cross that invisible line between okay for the baby and too much for the baby.

    These are just a few of the side effects of drinking alcohol. As you can see, some of them are quite scary, so it pays to eliminate or even just cut back on your drinking. If you dont think that you can do it on your own, its important to seek professional treatment for alcohol addiction.

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    How Does Alcohol Affect A Persons Mood And Personality

    As alcohol impacts a persons personality and mood, they may come off like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or go from one extreme to another. They may experience altered perceptions and intensified emotions, such as jealousy, anger, and depression. Alcohol affects emotional reactions and worsens anxiety. Also, alcohol may cause a loss of emotional control. Furthermore, alcohol may cause unpredictable mood swings, decreased inhibition, a false sense of confidence, increased aggression, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal depression. The rate of suicide among alcoholics is twice as high as that of the general population. With decrease inhibitions, a person may be unable to show restraint and might exhibit increased risk-taking behaviors, arguments, violence and accidents, isolation, psychosocial problems, breaks with reality, hallucinations, and delusions.

    Dopamine And The Brain

    The brain contains neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that transmit signals between brain cells and send information throughout the body. Dopamine is one of those chemical messengers and is strongly impacted by the presence of alcohol. Centered in the motivation, pleasure, and reward center of the brain, dopamine levels influence our mood. Higher levels of dopamine make us feel happier, more motivated and raise our self-esteem. When dopamine levels are low, we may feel depressed and unmotivated.

    Dopamine levels naturally increase when we experience something pleasurable, like eating something delicious, exercising, spending time with friends, or receiving positive feedback on a work or school project. Higher levels of dopamine make us feel happy and motivate us to re-experience what made us feel that way. Alcohol and other addictive substances trigger a much higher than normal increase in dopamine levels, causing an even more intense desire to repeat the behavior.

    Studies have confirmed that even small amounts of alcohol cause an increase in dopamine levels. One such study, published in the journal Alcohol Health and Research World, states, This dopamine release may contribute to the rewarding effects of alcohol and may thereby play a role in promoting alcohol consumption.

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    Why Is Teenage Drinking Dangerous

    Alcohol is the most commonly used and misused drug among young people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . The CDC reports that excessive underage drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among individuals each year.

    According to the CDCs 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Study, when high school students were asked about their activities during the previous 30 days, 33% said they drank some amount of alcohol, 18% reported binge drinking, and 8% said that they drove after drinking alcohol.

    Moreover, more than 90% of the alcohol consumed by young people is in the form of binge drinking.

    The CDC defines binge drinking as a drinking pattern that brings a persons blood alcohol concentration to 0.08% or above. Binge drinking means consuming five or more drinks in about two hours for someone who is biologically male, or four or more drinks for someone who is biologically female.

    The dangers associated with binge drinking include increased risk of drunk driving, violent behavior, being a victim of sexual assault, transmitted diseases, and long-term alcohol addiction.

    Adding to the concerns are studies providing scientific evidence that alcohol significantly impairs learning and memory in teens.

    Studies have debunked the widely held notion that adolescents can be kept safe and learn how to handle alcohol if they drink under adult supervision.

    Signs You Might Be Sensitive To Alcohol

    ð?º Why Alcohol Is Killing Your Body & Brain, And How To Reverse The Damage! – by Dr Sam Robbins

    If youre not sure whether you could be sensitive or susceptible to alcohol-related gut problems, consider the following signs, symptoms, and conditions:

    • You have an existing autoimmune disease, disorder, or other chronic health problem .
    • You frequently experience constipation and/or diarrhea.
    • You have acid reflux, ulcers, or other stomach acid problems.
    • You have a known case of SIBO, dysbiosis, leaky gut, or Celiac disease.
    • You have liver problems.
    • You struggle to lose weight and/or gain weight easily.
    • You have lots of food allergies, seasonal allergies, or histamine issues.

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    Alcohol Misuse And Its Lasting Effects

    Over time, excessive drinking can lead to mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. Alcohol abuse can increase your risk for some cancers as well as severe, and potentially permanent, brain damage. It can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome , which is marked by amnesia, extreme confusion and eyesight issues. WKS is a brain disorder caused by a thiamine deficiency, or lack of vitamin B-1. Taking certain vitamins and magnesium, along with not drinking alcohol, may improve your symptoms.

    Alcohol can harm your body in many ways. The good news is that within a year of stopping drinking, most cognitive damage can be reversed or improved.

    If you or someone you know needs help, please contact your physician or Alcoholics Anonymous.

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