Effects of Alcohol on the BrainPublished on October 21st, 2016
DAMAGING EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL ON THE BRAIN
The effects of alcohol on the brain are known to cause permanent memory damage. There are three forms of memory. We have the sensory memory, which lasts a few seconds, the short-term memory, which lasts a handful of minutes, and the long-term memory, also known as storage, which can last forever. Alcohol deteriorates each form of memory differently. From “blacking out” to developing amnesia, (memory deficit), alcohol poses serious risks to the brain in general, and therefore memory is not excluded. The hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for new memory formation, and alcohol distorts the activity of neurons in the hippocampus. So, that time you thought it was funny you blacked out at a party, it wasn’t, because seriously damaging things happened to your brain.
BLACK-OUTS AREN’T JUST BAD FOR THE BRAIN
Black-outs occur in two forms, fragmentary & en bloc. Fragmentary black-outs cause the loss of a short amount of time, and en bloc black-outs cause the loss of much time, perhaps even an entire night. Both blackouts, though, narrow down to the same damage. Your hippocampus is being altered greatly enough to stop the formation of memories, and you are actually experiencing transient amnesia. While not a lasting form of amnesia, severe alcohol abuse can indeed lead to full-blown amnesia.
Over half of college students have blacked out drinking at some point, and at the time of the 2004 study by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 40% of college students had blacked out drinking in the last year. This represents those who actually cannot recall a period of time drunk, not just those binge drinking (which is a whole other epidemic). Almost 10% of those surveyed reported having blacked out in the last two weeks. Among the activities those who blacked out later learned they had engaged in: driving, unprotected (or in some unfortunately extreme cases, nonconsensual) sex, vandalism, and injury.
THE BLACK-OUT CAN BE PERMANENT
Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS) is essentially a memory-impairing, vision-affecting, seizure-causing disorder. WKS is one of the worst known effects of alcohol on the brain. The two main required symptoms for diagnosis are both forms of amnesia; anterograde amnesia, which causes loss of the ability to create memories, and retrograde amnesia, which causes loss of previously-formed memories. In short, severe alcohol abuse can cause you to lose memories and to stop making them. That would surely be a burdened life.
SUMMARY OF DAMAGES
A social drinker at a work party consumes three too many martinis and forgets his entire night. He blacked out. An alcoholic who blacks out every night wanders out to her car and drives to the store for snacks. She is well past the point of blacked out. She crashes and severely injures herself or worse. She blacked out. It can happen to anyone, and it happens all too often. Don’t compromise the livelihood of yourself or others by drinking to that point. The long term effects of alcohol on the brain are not worth the temporary fixation.
RESOURCES ON ALCOHOLIC BLACKOUTS
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