The Effects of Alcohol on the Brain and Central Nervous System

Alcohol puts a person at a high risk of developing serious health complications to the brain and central nervous system. There is a negative relationship between alcohol and the nervous system. There are a lot of health risks when it comes to alcohol abuse and addiction

With continuous use, alcohol can begin to affect both the brain and the central nervous system. Alcohol addiction can be crippling to a person and everyone around them. Also, it can be extremely hard to stop drinking without medical help. This is due to the intense withdrawal symptoms that come with drinking. 

When people drink too much alcohol, they can experience blackouts. Blackouts are defined as amnesia during intoxication. If a person has a blackout, he or she does not “forget what happened” because the memories during that time never existed in the first place.

How Alcohol Affects the Central Nervous System (CNS)

The central nervous system includes the brain and the spinal cord, both of which are vital to functioning fully and correctly. The combination of alcohol and the central nervous system is, frankly, a bad mix. Not only does it affect the CNS, but it also affects the brain’s functionality.

Even mild use of alcohol can have negative effects on the central nervous system. This puts into perspective how dangerous alcoholism can be on the body. Continuous use of this substance can begin to cause health issues and blackouts in the long-term. 

The Science Behind Alcohol and the Central Nervous System 

Simply a drop of alcohol can easily cross membrane barriers and hit parts of the body at a rapid pace. The brain, in particular, is significantly affected by alcohol causing issues with cognition and memory. 

Alcohol affects neurotransmitters in the brain, such as glutamate, which governs brain function. If you drink enough alcohol, its depressant effects can reduce your breathing and heart rate. Subsequently, this can be deadly if no medical attention is provided.

The central nervous system is responsible for bringing in information through the five senses, as well as motor function and cognitive functions (thinking, reasoning, etc.). This system also controls emotion. The CNS includes the brain, the spinal cord, and the nerves that come from it.” Alcohol makes the brain’s nerve cells less excited, leading them to slow down.

Other Negative Effects of Alcohol on the Central Nervous System

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can lead to other negative effects in the central nervous system. Some of the short-term effects of alcohol consumption typically include:

  • Impaired vision
  • Impaired hearing 
  • Poor and reduced coordination
  • Inability to drive safely (or effectively)

While these short-term effects can cause dangerous, and sometimes even deadly results, there are many different long-term effects that alcohol can have on the brain as well. Serious diseases and memory loss are just two of the negative long-term effects of alcohol addiction. Other long-term effects of alcohol abuse on the brain include:

  • Anxiety
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Neuropathy
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Panic-inducing thoughts 

Continuous use of alcohol can have severe effects on the body and the mind. This is why it is important to get help as soon as possible. If you believe that someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, make sure to get help immediately to avoid the negative effects that alcohol can cause. 

Alcoholism’s Effects on the Brain

One of the main concerns that come with alcoholism is the potential effects it can have on the brain. Depending on the person, alcohol will affect each person differently and ultimately will have negative effects on the brain in the long run. 

There are several factors that contribute to how much a person’s brain will be affected by excessive alcohol consumption. These indicators can be big red flags that someone is abusing alcohol and will most likely experience negative effects on the brain if left untreated. Some of these indicators include:

  • Drinking often
  • Drinking at an early age
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure
  • Overall health issues/problems
  • Several years of drinking heavily
  • Drinking excessive amounts during each session

Any number of these factors can contribute to the severity of damage done to the brain. If you notice any of these red flags in someone you know, don’t wait to get help. Recovery is still possible if you seek treatment sooner than later. 

Alcohol Overdose

Passing out from drinking too much alcohol is a symptom of alcohol overdose. It is also referred to as alcohol poisoning. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states, “An alcohol overdose occurs when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life-support functions—such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control—begin to shut down.” 

Overdosing on alcohol occurs when a person’s level of intoxication interferes with the basic physiological functions that keep them alive. During a blackout, the memory storage process shuts down. Blackouts are caused by a chemical disruption in the brain’s hippocampus, which is where memories are developed. 

Alcohol interferes with the receptors that carry signals to that part of the brain and disrupts the memory-making process. A person who experiences a blackout can still have the ability to maintain language and motor skills. But his or her brain loses the capability to form new memories.

Signs of Alcohol Overdose

Alcohol overdose can be potentially fatal and it’s important to spot the signs of a possible alcohol overdose. As it is a matter of life and death, if you notice any of these signs or symptoms, seek medical attention and call 911 immediately. Common signs of alcohol overdose include:

  • Seizures
  • Clammy skin
  • Overall confusion
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Irregular breathing pattern
  • Very low body temperature
  • Bluish skin tone or paleness
  • Trouble staying awake or remaining conscious
  • Slow breathing (rule of thumb: less than 8 breaths per minute)

Other Effects of Alcohol Abuse

It is no secret that alcohol not only creates negative effects on the brain and the central nervous system but other parts of the body as well. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can affect many aspects of a person’s life and can have serious effects if left untreated. 

With continuous abuse of alcohol comes the following effects. They may not directly relate to the central nervous system. But it is important to know the consequences and results of alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Moderate to severe levels of alcohol consumptions may have the following effects on the body:

  • Hangovers
  • Weight gain
  • Hypertension
  • Heart troubles
  • Respiratory failure
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Immune system impairment
  • Alcohol poisoning/overdose

Signs of Alcohol Abuse 

At the end of the day, it is important to spot the signs of alcohol abuse within those who are close to you. There are a number of ways to spot alcohol addiction. While casual drinking is typically considered normal, excessive and binge drinking is not. Some of the big indicators of alcohol abuse include:

  • Can’t stop drinking habits
  • Excessive amount of time drinking
  • Losing control of alcohol consumption
  • Chooses to drink over hobbies or daily activities
  • Drinking despite legal, relationship, and health problems 
  • The need to drink in order to function or experience satisfaction

If you notice any of these signs and are concerned that a loved one (or someone you know) is struggling with alcohol addiction, it is important to get help as soon as possible. There are a variety of different treatment options that Daylight Recovery Services can provide to you and your family during recovery. 

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

There are a number of different options to treat alcohol addiction and abuse. Over time the brain and the central nervous system can begin to experience the negative effects of excessive drinking. However, it is not too late to get help. 

Trusted treatment centers like Daylight Recovery Services can provide everything your loved one needs to recover from alcohol addiction to eventually live a happier and healthier life down the road. Some of the more common treatment options for alcoholism and alcohol abuse include:

  • Medication
  • Support groups
  • Medically assisted detox
  • Therapy (speaking with a counselor)
  • 12-step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, etc.)

Get Help for Alcoholism Today! 

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction or substance use disorder, get help today. Blackouts and passing out from drinking alcohol are life-threatening. There is a very negative relationship between alcohol and the central nervous system; one that should be treated as soon as possible. 

If you or someone you know has experienced alcohol-induced blackouts or is struggling with alcohol use, get help now. Don’t hesitate to contact us or check out our website for more treatment options.