Short-term memory loss, impaired vision, dizziness, slow reflexes, incoherent speech – these are but a few of the dangerous effects of excessive alcohol consumption. People who partake heavily can accumulate long-term brain damage. It’s important for alcohol users and their family members to understand how alcohol addiction influences the brain and how a tailored rehab program can help with recovery.
What Factors Influence the Effect of Alcohol on the Brain?
There’s no doubt that alcohol addiction has damaging and potentially irreversible effects on the brain and body. Memory lapses are common: A student may forget about the report due in two days; a woman may have trouble recalling the conversation she had with her kids a few days ago.
However, more serious effects may require permanent monitoring and care. Even a few too many glasses of wine at a family party can impair motor functions, as seen with drunk driving.
So, why does alcohol affect different people in different ways? Many factors play a role, including:
- a family history of drinking
- the person’s age, gender, and genetic makeup
- the amount and frequency of consumption
- how long the person has been drinking, and the age at which they started
- whether the person was exposed to alcohol in the womb
- the person’s overall physical and mental health
Binge Drinking and Blackouts
Binge drinking occurs when men consume at least five in 2 hours, or at least four drinks for women. The sudden surge in blood alcohol concentration cuts off the brain’s oxygen supply, leading to a blackout.
College students are at a higher risk of blacking out, as binge drinking is seen as a social activity or rite of passage at parties. Family issues, problems at work or school, and underlying health conditions can also push a person to binge drink.
Keeping an open line of communication with family members and offering continued love and support can help curb dangerous alcohol cravings which lead to alcohol addiction.
Long-term Brain Damage
Roughly 80 percent of alcohol users have a thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. This essential nutrient plays a critical role in healthy brain function, and its absence can contribute to a two-stage brain disorder known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS). The disorder interferes with learning, memorization, and muscle control.
Alcohol also damages the ability of liver cells to filter out harmful chemicals from the blood. These substances can reach the brain and affect sleep, mood, behavior, and lead to mood disorders such as depression. In the worst case, alcohol-induced liver damage can place a person in a coma.
Teens who drink are nearly four times as likely to develop alcohol addiction in adulthood. Since the brain doesn’t typically fully develop until adulthood, teen drinking can lead to developmental disorders.
The Importance of Family Support
Many people turn to alcohol to suppress feelings of anger, sadness, loneliness, and anxiety. Having someone to talk to can make all the difference. Family members should communicate often with one another, ask questions, and show love and respect.
If you know or suspect a family member is struggling with alcohol addiction, encourage them to open up to you. Let them know your concerns without attacking them, and listen actively to what they have to say.
Blu By The Sea offers individualized alcohol rehab programs designed to meet modern needs. From traditional behavioral therapy and counseling to holistic treatment and nutritional consultation, patients receive a full spectrum of care that increases their chances of long-term sobriety.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Talk to Your Child About Alcohol, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2009, http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/MakeADiff_HTML/makediff.htm
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Alcohol’s Damaging Effects on the Brain, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, October 2004, http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.pdf