A Major Danger to the Brain

A good functioning brain is perhaps the most valuable thing that we can have in our life. Our intelligence, awareness, understanding and general effectiveness in life all depend upon the proper functioning of the brain.

What many people do not realize is that there is a common substance that can affect the brain in a major way — alcohol. I used to think that alcohol just causes liver diseases, such as cirrhosis or cancer. But later, I learned that one of the major consequences of heavy drinking is the gradual damage to the brain.

Brain Shrinkage. Studies have shown that the brains of alcoholics diminish in size. Even those who drink moderately also suffer from such shrinkage, according to the British Medical Journal based on research done by Oxford University and University College London on 550 people for 30 years. MRI images of brains of drinkers and non-drinkers show large empty gaps in brains of alcoholics. Alcohol kills the white cells of the brain.

Damage on Memory. Alcohol consumption, even in moderate amounts, affects the hippocampus, that part of the brain connected with memory. A very serious damage is the Wernicke-Korsakoff Sydrome which results in amnesia, damage to vision and poor muscle coordination. Alcohol affects the neurotransmitters of the nervous system, thus slowing down the communication system through the neurons.

Effect on baby’s brain. Pregnant women who drink alcohol results in what is called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome where the brain of the baby is smaller than normal. According to Mayo Clinic, the physical defects may include small eyes, upturned nose, deformities of limbs and fingers, slow physical growth, vision and hearing problems, small head, heart defects, kidney problems, poor memory, intellectual disability, difficulty with reading and problem-solving.

Blackout. A study of American college students showed the 51% of those surveyed suffered blackouts after drinking alcohol, where they do not remember events or important details of events.

Greater effect on women. Researches have also found that women are more seriously affected by alcohol than men, such as incidences of cirrhosis of the liver, damage on heart, damage on nerves.

People do not realize how harmful alcohol can be, even for those who engage in light social drinking.

There are several reasons why people drink, according to the Health Science Center of West Virginia University. The first is the desire to handle their stress. The problem is that alcohol does not remove the cause of the stress, and thus it becomes a recurrent matter. There are many wholesome ways of stress reduction, such as deep breathing or meditation, so that one does not have to resort to smoking or alcohol. A second reason that it that drinking is taken as a social norm where people are able to communicate better with each other once they drink a glass or two. They reduce their inhibition. If they refuse to drink they are pressured to do so. The need to conform constrains them to drink. There are ways of effective communication without having to resort to alcohol, such as assertiveness training. Another reason for drinking is isolation and loneliness, particularly among the more elderly.

It is important for parents to let their children know the medical facts about drinking alcohol and set the example about not drinking. Young people should also be taught how to say “no” effectively without offending other people.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/addiction-science/200810/what-does-alcohol-do-your-brain

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