How Alcohol Changes Your Brain?

Alcoholism or alcohol use disorder can harm the bones, liver, stomach, cardiovascular system, and even the brain in the long run. Of course, the more common effect of alcoholic manipulation is alcohol abuse or addiction. Alcohol abuse is a serious issue that affects a lot of people and causes them to be a burden to their loved ones while also draining the economy. The United States government paid about $249 billion for excessive alcohol use in 2010.

Since alcohol seems to primarily target the brain, there has been ongoing research into drugs to remove alcohol from the brain as a means of curbing this menace. In 2018 alone, about 14.4 million adults and 401,000 adolescents were diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. Based on the prevalence of findings between alcohol abuse and brain disease, it would appear that the only option is to quit drinking. However, this is easier said than done. An understanding of the relationship between quitting alcohol and dopamine levels would explain why this is difficult. Like with most drugs, quitting alcohol is hard. This might be due to the fact that excessive drinking can and does change the brain.

Facts that drug and alcohol affects the brain are represented in recent researches. The results of alcoholism research by the research team of Texas A&M University Health Science Center revealed that alcohol alters the way signals are processed by certain types of neurons in the brain. By changing this information, the brain is often encouraged to crave more alcohol, and the more alcohol that is consumed, the more pronounced these changes become.

With this new understanding, it became easier to gear recent research towards developing a genetically engineered neuron virus that will reduce the desire to drink by alleviating these changes to the brain.

Effects of Alcohol on the Brain

Alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse are alcohol use disorders, which are also addictions. An addiction can be defined as a chronic brain disease that induces irregularities in the associations between neurons.

Research on alcoholism has revealed that heavy alcohol use can result in changes in the striatum, which is a part of the brain. It is this region of the brain that processes hearing, sight, and all other sensory information. Its other functions also include sending out orders to control motor or motivational behavior.

Located in the forebrain, the striatum is majorly targeted by alcohol and addictive drugs. This is because striatal neurons are susceptible to changes in dopamine levels, and addictive substances like alcohol and drugs increase the levels of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with motivation and pleasure, and because the neurons in the striatum contain higher dopamine receptors, they are more easily affected by an increment in dopamine levels.

The two major types of neurons in the striatum are D1 and D2, which have opposing functions, even though they both receive sensory signals from other parts of the brain.

While D1 neurons encourage the behavior by controlling “go” actions, D2 neurons do the opposite by inhibiting behavior and controlling “no-go” actions. These neurons also react differently to dopamine. D1 neurons’ activities are promoted, while D2 neurons’ functions are suppressed. What this means is that “go” reward behaviors are promoted while “no-go” reward behaviors are inhibited.

When alcohol is consumed, dopamine floods the striatum, thereby hijacking this reward system. Due to the high levels of dopamine in the striatum, D1 neurons’ go-behavior is constantly promoted while D2’s no-go behaviors are suppressed. Because there is no inhibition, excessive alcohol use only reinforced the desire to keep drinking. Eventually, these changes to the brain have lasting effects.

This negative influence of alcohol on the brain often leads to addiction and will explain how alcoholics manipulate situations and people just to get the next drink to satisfy their need for alcohol. While much has been written about alcoholics and manipulation tendencies, understanding and treating the root cause of this behavior will make coping easier. Perhaps, manipulation is one physical manifestation of alcoholism brain disease.

Although the physical effects of alcohol use disorder are dangerous, the neurological effects of alcoholism leave an enduring influence that might not be as easily circumvented when the addiction is broken as its other physical effects.

In occasional drinkers, blackouts and memory impairments are short term effects that can be experienced after one or more drinks. For moderate drinkers, on the other hand, the risk of cognitive impairment and its dangerous outcomes abound. Heavy and chronic drinkers will likely experience Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, a brain disorder, impairment of intellectual functioning, shrinking in brain size, and changes in brain cell activity.

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