It is a widely known fact that alcohol use affects many parts of the body, including the kidney, liver, and heart, just to name a few. There are many alcohol effects on the mind, both short term and long term, as well. Most short-term effects of alcohol are relatively harmless when taken in moderation; it is when alcohol is consistently used in high doses that it begins to damage the brain. This damage can have potentially debilitating or even fatal results.
In the short term, alcohol effects on the mind are mostly limited to the drunken feeling produced immediately after alcohol is consumed. The alcohol reacts with GABA-A receptors in the brain, which results in the relaxed, soporific sensation commonly known as a “buzz”. GABA-A receptors, when antagonized by alcohol, also lower the mind’s inhibitors, temporarily relieve anxiety, increase sex drive, and often cause sleepiness or hunger. When larger amounts of alcohol are consumed, it can cause a reaction with NMDA receptors, which are believed to be at least partly responsible for learning and memory activities in the brain. This reaction may be the root cause of memory lapses or blackouts, wherein a person is unable to remember lengths of time once the alcohol has exited the system. Alcohol also dehydrates the body’s cells, including those in the brain, and this is often largely responsible for the day-after hangover.
Most long-term alcohol effects on the mind are not directly caused by alcohol, but indirectly result from alcohol effects on other parts of the body. For example, many alcohol users are prone to liver damage and thiamine deficiency. Sever liver damage can lead to a disease called hepatic encephalopathy, which usually presents with mood swings, personality changes, alterations in sleeping habits, and problems with coordination. Thiamine deficiency often culminates in a disorder known as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. This is actually comprised of two conditions that usually go hand-in-hand. Symptoms include reduced muscle coordination, confusion, and difficulty with learning and/or memory. Longtime alcohol users showing any of these symptoms may need hospitalization.
Many factors influence the effects of alcohol on the brain. In the short term, the amount of food and water previously ingested is one of these factors. Food, as well as extra fat in the body, slows down the alcohol’s progression through the body and water replenishes otherwise dehydrated cells, which counteracts the alcohol effects on the mind as well as the body. Women tend to react to alcohol intake much faster than men do, and a person from an alcoholic background is often more tolerant also. How often person drinks, how long he has been drinking and his age when he started drinking are all contributing factors of alcohol effects on the mind.
Alcohol affects different people differently. However, in the short term as well as the long term, it is known to have adverse alcohol effects on the mind. While some people may be more at risk of developing alcohol-related problems than others, these problems are a possibility for anybody who uses alcohol on a more-than-regular basis.