The Effects of Alcohol and Drug Abuse on the Brain

March 19, 2012

Alcohol and drug abuse can have an extremely devastating effect on the user. There are physical implications that can damage just about every organ in the body. There are mental and emotional implications that can cause you to develop serious psychological conditions. Many people falsely believe that since alcohol is legal, it must be safer and less harmful to our fragile beings. That would be wonderful if it were true, but unfortunately for all those suffering from alcoholism around the world, it’s not. Alcohol is equally as detrimental to the mind and body as most illicit substances. This blog will serve as the first in a series to examine the specific effects of alcohol and drug abuse on different organs in the body. This month we begin with the brain.

Alcohol and the Brain

The extent that alcohol will affect your brain is dependent on a few different variables. For starters, how much and how often is someone drinking? How long have they been drinking? Even an individual’s general health status has an impact on the extent that alcohol can affect the brain. A person’s age, gender, genetics and family history of alcoholism also play a role. You don’t have to engage in serious alcohol and drug abuse to have your brain be impacted by them either. Think about the last time you saw a social drinker have one too many at a party. There was likely some stumbling and difficulty walking, probably some slurred speech and almost certainly slowed reaction times. All of these normal, everyday functions originate in the brain so clearly alcohol affects the brain.

An individual with alcoholism is at risk for far more worrisome effects to the brain than slurred speech and trouble walking.  Chronic alcohol and drug abuse quite simply can contribute to irreversible brain damage. While people typically understand that alcohol can harm the liver, what they don’t realize is that prolonged liver dysfunction as a result of chronic alcohol abuse can harm the brain and lead to a potentially life-threatening brain disorder called hepatic encephalopathy. This disorder is then known to cause changes in sleep patterns, mood and personality, have psychiatric implications like developing anxiety and depression , severe cognitive effects like shortened attention span and problems with coordination like shaking hands. Alcohol abuse has serious mental health implications as well as chronic drinkers are much more likely to suffer from major depressive disorder than those who do not drink.

Drug Abuse and the Brain

While alcohol and drug abuse share many similar detrimental effects to the brain, the way chemical substances can permanently alter one’s actual brain chemistry is different. Cocaine for example targets the dopamine receptors in our brains. Dopamine is well known for causing us to experience feelings of pleasure, but it’s also responsible for regulating body movements, motivation and emotion. Prolonged cocaine abuse can cause the brain’s circuitry to deteriorate, resulting in loss of memory, decreased learning capability and an increased risk of strokes and heart attacks. Long term methamphetamine abuse is known to cause psychosis in many users. There are simply too many harmful, oftentimes irreversible effects of drug abuse on the brain to list them all.

Drug abuse has also been linked to a variety of emotional and mental health disorders. This is because certain drugs can cause permanent damage to the areas of the brain that are responsible for our emotional and psychological well being. Conditions that have been linked to drug abuse include long-term paranoia, hallucinations, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Treatment for Alcohol and Drug Abuse

One effect on the brain that both alcohol and drug abuse produce is that of addiction. Substance abuse is incredibly prevalent in our society and it’s very dangerous. Destination Hope is a premier treatment facility in Florida for men who suffer from addictions. Please contact us today at 1-877-380-9777 for more information.

Insurance