How alcohol affects the brain
Alcohol is classified as a depressant, which means it can interfere with the chemical balances in the brain, affecting the neurotransmitters that are in charge of carrying signals from one nerve in the brain to another. After you drink alcohol, the processes in your brain slow down, which affects your ability to properly form, retain, and recall memories. A huge consumption of alcohol, especially during a short amount of time and on an empty stomach, may completely shut down the brain’s function to record memories, resulting in blackouts, or loss of recollection of memories for several time intervals. The drunk person may forget some details or the whole event. This is why some people wake up after a night of binge drinking, having no idea where they were or what they did.
Major effects of alcohol on a brain include:
- Impaired mobility
- Blurry vision
- Slurred speech
- Slow reactions
- Memory loss
While some of these effects are visible and often go way on their own after the drinking stops, others may change the brain of chronic drinkers and persist even after they have quitted drinking. Long-term drinkers put themselves at risk of developing permanent changes in the brain. The damages are various from poor health, or severe liver condition.
Alcohol and anxiety
Some people drink in the hope to ward off stress and anxiety. To their disappointment, a glass of wine actually contributes to depression and anxiety, making it harder for them to deal with their condition in the long run. Alcohol makes you hold on to things your brain consider as threats, intensifying your anxiety.
Alcohol and depression
Regular consumption of alcohol has been associated with symptoms of depression. The presence of alcohol inhibits serotonin – a mood regulator. Depressed people turn to alcohol to pull through the day, totally unaware of the vicious circle they are spiraling into. The more you drink, the more depressed you are. In addition, heavy drinking may sabotage important relationships in your life, ruin your working performance – both of these will make your life more miserable, contributing to depression.
Alcohol and self-harm, suicide, and psychosis
As alcohol restrains the brain region associated with inhibition, drinkers act impulsively while on alcohol, engaging in activities they would never have taken if they are sober. Reports show that most people who harmed themselves were drunk while doing so.
Extremely heavy drinking may trigger an episode of psychosis. Psychosis can also occur if chronic drinkers suddenly stop drinking, accompanied by delirium tremens – intense confusion and tremors.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: June 6, 2017 | Last Modified: June 6, 2017
Alcohol andmental health. https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/mental-health/alcohol-and-mental-health/. Accessed June 6, 2017.
ALCOHOL’S DAMAGING EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm. Accessed June 6, 2017.