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The Effects of Alcohol on Your Brain

For many people, drinking alcohol is a big part of life, with it playing a large part of social occasions and other various situations. If you drink alcohol frequently, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with its effects on your brain. It is a known fact, and nearly all psychologists in Montreal will agree, that chronic heavy drinking can cause mental deficits. Depending on how frequent and how much alcohol you consume, you could actually be putting yourself at risk of neural loss.

Good News: Drinking – In Moderation – Does Not Kill Brain Cells 

Research has demonstrated that moderate drinking does not kill your brain cells. Quite on the contrary: as long as it is in moderation, drinking can actually have some health benefits such as lower cholesterol levels, and improved cognitive abilities.

Heavy drinking and long term alcohol use also do not result in the death of brain cells. However, it damages the dendrites in the cerebellum and reduces the communication between neurons. Too much alcohol consumption may not kill brain cells, but it can certainly alter their structure.

Bad News: Alcohol Can Cause Brain Damage

While it may not kill brain cells, long term alcohol abuse can lead to brain damage. It can also lead to a thiamine deficiency, which is an important B-vitamin. Thiamine deficiency can then lead to a serious neurological disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which actually consists of two separate conditions that can occur at the same time. Chronic (and heavy) alcoholic drinkers usually get the symptoms of the Wernicke’s disease first, where they experience bleeding in the lower sections of the brain. The lower section includes the thalamus and hypothalamus, which are the areas controlling the nervous and endocrine systems. Brain damage is caused by the bleeding and the symptoms will affect your vision, coordination, and balance.

As the symptoms of Wernicke’s decrease, the signs of Korsakoff psychosis follow. However, if Wernicke’s disease is treated effectively and immediately, there is a chance that Korsakoff may not even develop. Korsakoff psychosis is the result of chronic brain damage, and affects the areas of your brain that control your memory.

Aside from the impairment of intellectual functioning, long term use and abuse of alcohol can also result to a diminished brain size. One of the common impairments that chronic alcoholics experience is the inability to think abstractly and perceive and remember the location of some objects.

Alcohol and Depression

Oftentimes, people who feel sad and depressed seek comfort by drinking alcohol, either alone or with friends. At first, they may feel better, and as if the alcohol is actually making their lives easier – however, this is only a temporary solution, and one that actually aggravates the situation overall. Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it will only intensify the symptoms of depression.

Being a depressant, alcohol can lower arousal levels and reduce excitability. Indeed, alcohol abuse can even be the cause of depression in the first place. Since alcohol is a toxin that harms the body and the mind, a chronic alcoholic will find themselves unable to handle the symptoms of depression well.

Fortunately, minor cognitive impairment can still be reversed by abstaining from alcohol. For those who wish to recover, there is almost always a solution to be found. There are studies that show that people who undergo a medical detox show mild but significant improvement in their cognitive abilities.Visuospatial tasks, problem-solving abilities, and short-term memory are also improved. The changes may not be very significant at first and may take some time before you’ll notice them, but by making consistent efforts, your brain function should improve after a few months to a year.        

About Juana Domenech

Juana Domenech

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