Effects of alcohol on the brain: Everything you need to know in this guide
Effects of alcohol on the brain. Several studies confirm the relationship between alcohol abuse and cognitive impairment. Binge drinking can have serious consequences for our memory and cognition.
You may not know that excess alcohol can also affect young people and teenagers brain. weekend “binge drinking” can damage our brain in the long run. Having a beer a day is not harmful, however, excesses, and frequent binges can have negative effects on the brain. In this article, we explain how alcohol affects your brain and give you some tips.l
Having a drink from time to time will not cause problems to the nervous system. It is a risk when the consumption is excessive, fast and repetitive, even though it’s only on weekends.
A Spanish scientific study published in the Neuropsychiatry and Neurosciences journal affirms that a high consumption of alcohol during the weekends causes neurocognitive deficits in both sexes, being a higher risk in women.
In addition, constant consumption of alcohol during the weekends may cause alcoholic dependence in adulthood.
Effects of alcohol on the brain- Consequences
1. Effects of alcohol on the brain: Excessive ingestion of alcohol affects your hippocampus
The hippocampus is a fundamental structure for memory and learning. Alcohol reduces its volume drastically affecting these cognitive processes.
In addition, there are also alterations in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for governing self-control of our behavior.
Alcohol alters the functional development of the cerebellum, the cerebral cortex, the nucleus accumbens, prevents new synapses, and may even lead to brain death.
2. Effects of alcohol on the brain: Weekend drinking can damage your memory
A study from the University of Compostela by Dr. Cadaveira established that young people who drink alcohol intensively have worse memory and difficulty recognizing faces than those who do not drink.
Working memory is responsible for keeping important data in our brain so we can plan and complete a task. This study also found evidence that working memory also suffers alterations, making it difficult to retain information.
3. Effects of alcohol on the brain: Why do I have mental gaps after a night out?
After a long night of margaritas and gin tonics, you wake up with a monumental hangover, all of the symptoms included, headache, nausea and worst of all a worrying feeling of not remembering what happened last night.
This is called alcoholic amnesia or blackouts and it happens when there is an interruption in hippocampus tasks. When we drink excessively and very fast, we hinder or inhibit hippocampus receptors that transmit glutamate, necessary for the synapses between neurons. Inhibiting the memory tasks the hippocampus needs in order to remember.
Probably when you suffer this kind of “brain blackout”, you are able to do very basic routines, undress and go to bed, send a WhatsApp, etc. but your brain is temporarily unable to create new memories.
These blackouts are dangerous, they can put you in situations of vulnerability and risk. If you are a woman, you are more likely to suffer from these alcoholic amnesias. Studies claim that we have less gastric dehydrogenase, an enzyme responsible for diluting and dissolving alcohol in our body.
Although there is no correlation between social drinkers and alcoholics when it comes to blackouts, presence, and frequency, it is recommended that if it has ever happened to you, drastically decrease your alcohol consumption.
4. Effects of alcohol on the brain: Arrival of emotional disturbances
Alcohol abuse, although intermittent, correlates with diseases and disorders such as depression, anxiety symptoms, aggression, and stress. If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, reflect on how much alcohol you ingest and look for help.
5. Effects of alcohol on the brain: Big impact on adolescent brains.
The US is number 25 in alcohol consumption around the world. Although the legal age is 21, underage drinking is still a big issue, starting around 12 years old. This data is alarming and so are the consequences. Teens generally do not drink on a daily basis, but on weekends they binge drink.
Binge-drinking in young children since their brain is still forming have terrible consequences in learning and memory capacity as well as depressive and impulsive behaviors.
Tips to not mistreat your brain so much
1. Effects of alcohol on the brain: Drink in moderation
If you really want to stop punishing your brain and save yourself possible future memory problems, the easiest solution is to stop drinking.
If this radical option does not fit into your plans, go to tip number 2.
2. Effects of alcohol on the brain: Give it a break and drink water
If you drink, do it in moderation. No need to drink 4 gin tonics, one is more than enough. Also, between an alcoholic drink and another, try to drink a glass of water. Water will make it easier to dissolve alcohol and your blood alcohol increase will not be so drastic so it can help prevent annoying blackouts.
3. Effects of alcohol on the brain: Never drink on an empty stomach
There is nothing worse than drinking on an empty stomach. If you have food in your stomach, the amount of alcohol in your blood will not be so high. In addition, food gives your brain resources to fight against the poisoning effect alcohol can cause.
Try to keep your body healthy, especially your brain, read 13 super foods for the brain.
4. Effects of alcohol on the brain: If you might have a bigger problem ask for help
If you think that drinking alcohol is getting out of hand, you drink more every time and suffer permanent blackouts, it’s time to ask for help. The problem with alcohol is that it is a socially accepted drug, so perhaps finding that you have a problem is not so easy. Do not hesitate to ask for help and talk to a specialist, that way avoiding it turn into alcoholism.
5. Effects of alcohol on the brain: Train your brain daily
The best ally to prevent future memory problems is brain training. CogniFit is the leading program in cognitive assessment and brain stimulation. It is validated by the scientific community and it is used by colleges, universities, and hospitals around the world.
This program is accessible online through entertaining brain games. It is very easy to use, you just have to sign up! The different interactive exercises are based on clinical studies and professional assessments for neuropsychological stimulation and rehabilitation. After each session, CogniFit will send you a report of your cognitive progress.
CogniFit focuses on brain neuroplasticity, which is the ability to create new synapses and neural circuits capable of reorganizing and recovering the function of the most impaired cognitive areas, including memory.
To discover a little more about how to train your brain do not miss the following article: Brain Gym: 16 Activities that will help your brain stay younger.
Thanks so much for reading. Do not hesitate to leave us your comments and questions!
This article is originally in Spanish written by Cristina Martinez de Toda, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
Alejandra is a clinical and health psychologist. She is a child specialist with a diploma in evaluation and intervention in autism. She has worked in different schools with young children and private practice for over 6 years. She is interested in early childhood intervention, emotional intelligence, and attachment styles. As a brain and human behavior enthusiast, she is more than happy to answer your questions and share her experience.