How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain and Moods?

Alcohol is not often considered a drug in the recovery community. However, alcohol is definitely a drug. In fact, alcohol is the oldest and best-known drug in the depressant class of psychoactive substances. It acts as a powerful depressant in the central nervous system. Alcohol can have profound effects on your mental health, cognition, personality, mood, and behavior.

People who abuse and misuse alcohol often experience blackouts and exacerbate the psychiatric disorders they may already have. People may experience pellagra, a disease caused by Vitamin B deficiency which eventually impairs the nervous system and results in dementia. Korsakoff’s Syndrome may also arise in people who abuse alcohol. The disease is a form of psychosis associated with brain deterioration, short-term memory failure, imaginary memories, hallucinations, and agitation.  Additionally, people who struggle with alcohol may suffer from Wernicke’s syndrome, a mental derangement disorder associated with vitamin B deficiency and neurological deterioration, loss of memory, disorientation, agitation, and confusion.

There are cognitive impairments and deficiencies which result from alcohol-induced brain and liver damage.  Alcohol can impair the brain’s capacity to learn and store new information. In fact, 75% of alcoholics report some form of cognitive impairment and report that their recall of information is disrupted in all aspects of everyday life. Alcohol can also cause confusion,  gradual psychological changes, and impaired short-term memory loss as the drug destroys parts of the brain which are responsible for memory.

As alcohol bombards the brain, cerebral atrophy may result. This condition impairs the ability to remember, understand, reason, and make decisions, sometimes permanently. The direct, toxic action of alcohol damages nerve cells, axons and dendrites. The fewer nerve the brain cells, the fewer connections there are among them. With less white and gray matter, vital brain functions decrease, perhaps irrevocably.

How Does Alcohol Affect a Person’s Mood and Personality?

As alcohol impacts a person’s personality and mood, they may come off like “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” or go from one extreme to another. They may experience altered perceptions and intensified emotions, such as jealousy, anger, and depression. Alcohol affects emotional reactions and worsens anxiety. Also, alcohol may cause a loss of emotional control. Furthermore, alcohol may cause unpredictable mood swings, decreased inhibition, a false sense of confidence, increased aggression, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal depression. The rate of suicide among alcoholics is twice as high as that of the general population. With decrease inhibitions, a person may be unable to show restraint and might exhibit increased risk-taking behaviors, arguments, violence and accidents, isolation, psychosocial problems, breaks with reality, hallucinations, and delusions.

Find Help Today for Alcohol Addiction

If you or your loves ones notice any of these symptoms in someone who abuses alcohol, you should seek professional help right away to learn about the best options for care and treatment. A person who has been abusing alcohol for a long time should not abruptly stop without medical supervision due to the danger of withdrawal symptoms.  With support at a certified drug and alcohol therapy and detox clinic, a person has a better chance of recovering from alcohol addiction and remain sober. During rehab, there are support systems in place which are tailored to the needs of each person in recovery.

Even though alcohol is legal, it still can be abused like other common drugs. Those in recovery from alcohol abuse may not feel the need for recovery if they are a “functional alcoholic” whose drinking doesn’t appear to disrupt daily life. However, being “functional” has nothing to do with the basic needs of a person, because alcohol disrupts a person’s brain functions, family life, and behaviors everyday. 

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