It only takes one trip to a bar on the weekend to see that alcohol can significantly impact the brain. In some cases, it only takes a few drinks for someone to experience slurred speech, impaired judgment, difficulty walking and blurred vision.
For the most part though, these side effects wear off shortly after the drinking stops. But did you ever wonder what is going on behind the scenes? What effects does alcohol have on the brain on a short and long-term basis?
How Alcohol Impacts the Brain’s Cognitive Ability in the Short-Term
In general, alcohol is associated with a whole host of cognitive changes you are probably familiar with. Confusion, loss of inhibitions, abnormal thinking and poor decision making are all short-term effects of recreational drinking. But behind the scenes, alcohol is actually altering the brain’s structure and releasing a rush of dopamine.
Dopamine is the feel-good chemical that gives you a euphoric rush when you drink and sometimes your body can retrain itself to think it needs this dopamine fix on a regular basis. That is how dependency can happen over time, because the more you drink, the more your brain thinks it needs it.
How Alcohol Impacts the Brain’s Cognitive Ability Long-Term
Heavy or chronic drinkers experience more severe side effects. In some cases, heavy drinking can lead to diminished gray matter in the brain, an inability to think abstractly, memory loss, cognitive impairment or even the development of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. In the most serious cases, people have been shown to develop irreversible brain damage.
Depending on the length and severity of the addiction, alcohol’s effects on the brain can be improved upon or eliminated with long-term sobriety. Healing can start happening quickly once a person seeks treatment and recovery.
Factors that Contribute to Alcohol’s Effects on the Brain
Addiction is a highly personal journey and alcohol’s effects on the brain are influenced by a variety of factors. These factors include:
- The volume of alcohol a person consumes
- How often a person drinks
- The age a person started drinking
- A person’s sex, age and genetic predisposition
- Family history
- General health condition
- A person’s history with alcohol as a fetus
The important thing to remember is that every person’s journey with alcohol addiction is unique. This disease can take control of the brain and make it impossible to quit alone. Finding the right recovery center can help individuals achieve sobriety and start to slowly reverse the damage alcohol has done to the brain.
Regain Control and Find a New Zest for Life at Spirit Mountain Recovery
Spirit Mountain Recovery takes a unique approach to recovery that is based on experiential treatment and finding happiness outside of addiction. Our recovery teams work hard to reorient your life goals through gender-specific, evidence-based treatment that is paired with healthy, outdoor activity. Contact us today to learn more about alcohol addiction treatment at our campus in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.