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How Alcohol Addiction Affects The Brain

Editor Dan Schimmel, LCSW, CAP
Created On
Updated On

Alcohol addiction is overwhelming. Alcohol effects nearly every organ in the body causing irreversible damage. The brain is no exception. Immediate effects of alcohol go directly to the brain causing blurred vision, difficulties with walking, slurred speech, slowed reaction time and impaired memory. These effects can happen within minutes, having only one or two drinks. These effects will go away as the body cleanses itself of alcohol, the effects of heavy regular drinking are those that could be permanent.


The Intoxicating Effects of Alcohol

Physical signs of heavy drinking often include the stumbling walk, slurred words, memory lapses, trouble with their balance, poor judgment and  are uncoordinated. The way alcohol affects the brain and central nervous system is the cause to these physical signs.

Alcohol Affects Brain Chemistry

Alcohol affects brain chemistry by changing the levels of neurotransmitters. Signals throughout the body that control thought processes, behavior and emotion are transmitted by neurotransmitters, they act as chemical messengers for the brain. The neurotransmitter GABA is directed effected when an individual is intoxicated by alcohol. These effects of the GABA are what cause the sluggish behaviors seen in the physical signs of intoxication of alcohol. The neurotransmitter glutamate is too affected, causing physiological slowdown. The chemical dopamine in the brain’s reward center when drinking alcohol, this creates the feeling of pleasure when intoxicated.

Tolerance, Dependency and Withdrawal Syndrome

Regular use of alcohol often leads to a tolerance where the user will require more alcohol to acheive the desired effects. Excessive use of alcohol eventually will lead to a physical and psychological dependency. The users thoughts and actions become controlled by alcohol. Their time is spent planning out when they will have their next drink or drinking. When dependent on alcohol most developing withdrawal syndrome. What stopping the use of alcohol they will experience withdrawal symptoms that vary in severity but often return the user to alcohol for comfort. To successfully overcome an dependency to alcohol most will require an Alcohol Treatment Center that offers medical detox, therapy, counseling and chemical dependency education.

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