The immediate effects of alcohol can often be seen by changes in reaction time, speech, and other factors and behaviors. However, internally, changes can also occur, both in the short and long term. Specifically, alcohol can have significant physical and functional effects on the brain. What exactly does alcohol do to your brain?
Immediate and Short Term Effects of Alcohol
Most people are aware of many of the short-term effects that alcohol has on the brain and body, but some are lesser-known:
- Impaired judgment
- Slowed speech
- Inability to concentrate
- Lack of coordination
- Lowered inhibitions
- Increased chances of risky behavior including STDs or unplanned pregnancy
- Accidents including falls and car accidents
- Increased risk of sexual assault
- Increased irritability, anger, and conflicts
- Drowsiness, sleepiness, or even coma
- Alcohol poisoning or overdose
Typically it is unlikely that any of these effects are the desired effects when alcohol is consumed, as it is a Central Nervous System (CNS) depressant. This means that alcohol slows everything in your body down and can ultimately cause coma or death, even in the short term.
Does Blacking Out Cause Damage to My Brain?
Blacking out due to alcohol consumption prevents short-term memories from being stored so that you do not remember anything that happened during that time. They are most common when large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short period of time, also known as binge drinking.
What is commonly confused as blacking out is actually passing out, or losing consciousness due to excessive drinking. Neither blacking out or passing out carry their own specific risks of damage to the brain, but rather the same immediate and long-term consequences of alcohol consumption to the brain and body.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in My System?
The length of time that alcohol stays in your system depends on many factors, including gender, body type, weight, type of alcohol consumed, how much was consumed, and over how much time you drank it. There are tests currently available that can still detect alcohol in your urine up to four days after your last drink.
The effects of alcohol may be very long-term, as even after detoxification from alcohol abuse the body and brain still crave the drug. Extended alcohol use creates changes within the brain that can create long-term or even lifelong cravings to drink.
Long-term Symptoms of Alcohol on the Brain
Every person is different when it comes to their symptoms and responses to drinking. However, there are a wide range of long-term symptoms which affect the brain in addition to dependency, addiction, and an increased tolerance for alcohol or other drugs. These symptoms include:
- Decrease in cognitive functions, such as memory
- Increased likelihood of depression, anxiety, or other mental health diagnoses
- Significant increase in risk for dementia
- Premature aging of the brain
- Cerebral atrophy or other measurable damage to the brain
- Cellular and neurotransmitter damage or malfunction
Some of these symptoms may improve over time with abstinence from alcohol, however, some damage is permanent. For the lowest risk, the earliest treatment for alcohol addiction is most helpful in the prevention of further damage.
Does Alcohol Affect the Teen Brain More?
The brain is not fully formed and developed until well into our twenties. For this reason, alcohol consumption before the age of 25 has increased effects compared with adults who drink the same amount. Not only can the moderate to heavy use of alcohol lead to permanent damage to cognitive and executive functions in the brain for young drinkers, but it can prevent the healthy physical development of the brain. Education regarding these potentially lifelong consequences amongst both teens and adults can help prevent devastating results later in life.
Can My Brain Heal from Alcohol Use?
The brain is an amazing organ which doctors and scientists are still learning more about every day. There is always the hope that damage to the brain can be healed if you achieve long-term sobriety and are able to stay in your recovery. But there are no guarantees.
There seem to be more ways to cause irreversible damage to your brain than there are to heal from alcohol-caused brain damage. For example, the brain can suffer even further damage due to toxins in the blood caused by liver damage. Your brain is just like your life, you only have one chance, so it is important to protect it at all costs. The only chance that you have at healing any physical or functional damage to your brain is to stop drinking permanently.
What does alcohol do to your brain? Short-term, it can impair your function, put you at risk, or even cause death. Long-term, alcohol consumption can cause what is often permanent damage to the physical makeup of the brain itself, its function, and how long it lasts. All of these risks are amplified for those in their early twenties who drink alcohol. Helping people to stop drinking in order to prevent these consequences is what Rancho Milagro Recovery is committed to. We value the mind, body, and spirit, and want to help you heal completely, but we realize that improving brain health is key to your complete healing. By calling (951) 526-4582 today, you can talk with our compassionate staff about how we can help you stop potential harm to your mind and body with treatment for alcohol abuse. We offer a beautiful ranch setting to help you live a life free of alcohol or its consequences. Contact us today to begin your healing.