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The dangers alcohol poses to the brain

When a person picks up a drink, they are usually not thinking about how that drink is going to affect their brain or what mistakes they swore wouldn’t happen again which that next drink could would lead them to make. “Losing one’s inhibitions” is a state of consciousness in which a person makes decisions that they usually wouldn’t make while they were sober. Part of this is due to the fact that alcohol can make somebody feel like a completely different person which is often why people may continue their use of alcohol. Somebody who is usually shy might turn into the life of the party when they are drinking. In contrast though, someone that has a tendency to be very uplifting and happy can become angry, fearless and abusive when drunk.

The science of alcohol

Alcohol is a psychoactive drug that slows down brain activity. Psycho active drugs, such as alcohol, are chemical substances that primarily affect the central nervous system by activating dopamine receptors in the reward pathway of the brain. This alters the limbic system resulting in changes in mood, behavior, consciousness and perception.

The alteration of the frontal lobe of the brain can impair one’s judgment to the point where he or she could make decisions to say or do things that they usually wouldn’t under normal circumstances which is what occurs when someone drinks. A person’s executive decision-making process is controlled by the frontal lobe of the brain, which is extremely vulnerable to alcohol and the brain will be affected at different levels, depending on the frequency and quantity of what a person drinks. However, with most people, it usually only takes about one or two drinks to feel inebriated. After a certain amount of alcohol the brain’s executive functions such as planning, impulse control, sustained attention, emotions, problem solving and self-monitoring, which are all functions of the frontal lobe, are altered. (Nakamura-Palacios 2013)

Physical impairments due to drinking alcohol:

It is obvious that a person is mentally impaired when they drink alcohol. One question some may ask though is how this appears in an inebriated individuals actions. Some physical signs of alcohol use can include:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Blurred vision
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Impaired memory
  • Slurred speech
  • Forgetfulness
  • Hallucinations or delusions (these will occur in cases of severe intoxication)

Common warning signs that a person has a drinking problem:

While drinking alcohol is not uncommon in many cultures that does not mean a person can’t develop a problem in their drinking habits. It is vital that a person with alcohol addiction find help through proper treatment but identification and diagnosis must come first. Signs that an individual may be struggling with alcohol abuse include:

  • Drinking in the morning
  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking as a coping mechanism
  • Being led to other destructive decisions because of drinking
  • Becoming violent when drinking
  • Regretful feelings of decisions made while drinking
  • Getting a DUI, or drunk in public offense
  • Continued unsuccessful attempts to stop drinking

It often takes a long series of very unfortunate events for a person to decide to quit drinking, but this isn’t always the case. Many people are able to recognize a destructive pattern of consequences connected to their drinking and work to take care of the problem on their own. However there are those who cannot seem to stop drinking or reduce their alcohol consumption. In these cases, a treatment program which utilizes psychotherapy and 12-step programs has been shown to be very affective. According to a study conducted by the Alcoholics Anonymous World Service, 31 percent of the members surveyed were referred to AA by a treatment center.

If an addiction to alcohol is caught quickly, it doesn’t have to become a lifelong issue. It’s incredibly important to watch for warning signs of a possible drinking problem in oneself or others. If left unattended, an addiction to alcohol can lead to health issues, addictions to other substances, family/work problems, DUIs, jail time, placement in institutions and/or death. Through the help of 12-step programs and treatment, a person with a drinking problem can overcome their problem and continue their life in sobriety. For more information on how to begin the journey to sobriety, contact the Recovery Helpline today a t855-441-4405.

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