Sober living
How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain?

Certain factors may increase your chances of experiencing alcohol use disorder. Some people who drink eventually develop a tolerance to alcohol. As a result, they eventually need to drink more to notice the same effects they once did. That’s because drinking during pregnancy doesn’t just affect your health. If your body can’t manage and balance your blood sugar levels, you may experience greater complications and side effects related to diabetes. Alcohol can cause both short-term effects, such as lowered inhibitions, and long-term effects, including a weakened immune system.

Alcohol’s Effects on Health

Too much alcohol affects your speech, muscle coordination and vital centers of your brain. A heavy drinking binge may even cause a life-threatening coma or death. This is of particular concern when you’re taking certain medications that also depress the brain’s function. And prolonged alcohol use can lead to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

What to Know About Alcohol and Mental Health

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When you drink too much alcohol, it can throw off the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. That’s because your body already has processes in place that allow it to store excess proteins, carbohydrates and fats. So, your system prioritizes getting rid of alcohol before it can turn its attention to its other work. Your liver detoxifies and removes alcohol from your blood through a process known as oxidation. When your liver finishes that process, alcohol gets turned into water and carbon dioxide.

What Are the Psychological Effects of Alcohol?

Merely because you have noticed the signs of alcoholism, these facts are unlikely to be ‘news’ to the person or persons concerned. Your body breaks alcohol how long does a hangover last plus how to cure a hangover fast down into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which damages your DNA. Damaged DNA can cause a cell to grow out of control, which results in cancerous tumors.

Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and can affect the way the brain looks and works. Alcohol makes it harder for the brain areas controlling balance, memory, speech, and judgment to do their jobs, resulting in a higher likelihood of injuries and other negative outcomes. Long-term heavy drinking causes alterations in the neurons, such as reductions in their size. One night of binge drinking can jumble the electrical signals that keep your heart’s rhythm steady. If you do it for years, you can make those heart rhythm changes permanent and cause what’s called arrhythmia. Over time, it causes heart muscles to droop and stretch, like an old rubber band.

They can also recommend treatment programs that may help with detox and recovery. The synaptic transmission is heavily disturbed and altered by ethanol, and the intrinsic excitability in various areas of the brain is also compromised. The effects of ethanol may be pre-synaptic, post-synaptic, and at times, non-synaptic too. Because alcohol is a depressant, it can also contribute to mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression. Research indicates that heavy alcohol use can also increase the risk of suicide.

  1. Unfortunately, many people are not aware that there are medications available to help treat alcohol use disorder.
  2. Recognizing the early signs and risk factors for AUD can help you seek early treatment and intervention to break alcohol misuse patterns.
  3. Depending on how often you drink and how much, you may need support from a healthcare professional if you want to stop drinking.
  4. Your provider can prescribe medications that can help people stop drinking and help with symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
  5. Slurred speech, a key sign of intoxication, happens because alcohol reduces communication between your brain and body.
  6. The severity of a person’s withdrawal symptoms may get worse each time they stop drinking, and can cause symptoms such as tremors, agitation and convulsions (seizures).

Research has shown that when alcohol is removed from the body, it activates brain and nerve cells, resulting in excessive excitability (hyperexcitability). Alcohol is a powerful chemical that can have a wide range of adverse effects on almost every part of your body, including your brain, bones and heart. Alcohol throws off the normal speed that food moves through them. That’s why hard drinking can lead to diarrhea, which can turn into a long-term problem. It also makes heartburn more likely because it relaxes the muscle that keeps acid out of your esophagus, the tube that connects your mouth and stomach. You may not realize how much alcohol you’re actually drinking in a week.

Drinking alcohol can lower your inhibitions, so you might assume alcohol can ramp up your fun in the bedroom. Ulcers can cause dangerous internal bleeding, which can sometimes be fatal without prompt diagnosis and treatment. For more information about alcohol and cancer, please visit the National Cancer Institute’s webpage “Alcohol and Cancer Risk” (last accessed October 21, 2021).

The toll that frequent alcohol use can have on your body can be severe but in some cases, the damage can be reversible. These effects can happen even after one drink — and increase with every drink you have, states Dr. Anand. You’ve had a stressful day and want to unwind with a glass of wine.

A good first step is to keep a record of how much alcohol you drink and of when you don’t drink throughout the week. Having support and seeking professional treatment increases the chances for recovery from AUD. Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) provide support for people who are recovering. Research shows a high correlation between alcohol misuse and high-risk sexual behavior, violence, crime, self-injury, and fatal injury from things like motor vehicle accidents. People with AUD represent about 20–35 percent of completed suicides. As of 2021,  29.5 million people aged 12 and older had an alcohol use disorder in the past year.

Dr. Sengupta shares some of the not-so-obvious effects that alcohol has on your body. Encouraging our loved ones to get treatment is important, but there are also other steps that can drinking was hard on my marriage so was recovery. help us protect our well-being. April Eldemire, LMFT, is a psychotherapist who specializes in marriage and couples issues, new-parenthood transitions and blended family dynamics.