It's common knowledge that alcohol affects the brain and body. As a depressant, it slows thought processes and appears to soothe frayed nerves. It impairs people's judgment and interferes with the decision-making process. It also hampers speech, memory, balance, and coordination. Those are the effects you can feel under the influence of alcohol. While generating those effects, alcohol can have more in-depth impacts. It causes a certain amount of damage that lingers well after the noticeable effects of alcohol wear off.
Are those effects permanent? Can the brain recover from alcohol-induced damage? Read on to explore some of the ways alcohol affects the brain beyond the noticeable impacts. At the same time, consider how inpatient drug rehab in orange county can help combat those effects.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain?
Alcohol affects the brain in several ways. For one, it's a neurotoxin. That means it disrupts neurotransmitters, the chemicals that relay messages to and from the brain. You may have heard that alcohol kills brain cells. That's essentially true. It damages not only brain cells but the entire central nervous system. As alcohol temporarily slows your thought processes and eases anxiety, it can cause significant damage to the nerves that control those aspects.
Clinical studies also show that prolonged excessive exposure to alcohol causes parts of the brain to shrink. This mainly affects the hippocampus and cerebral cortex. While the cerebral cortex controls personality, intelligence, reasoning, and other processes, the hippocampus is responsible for emotion, learning, and memory. One of its main functions is to transfer short-term memories to long-term storage. Alcohol can also alter the functionality of the cerebellum, which controls movement and coordination.
Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption causes inflammation in the brain. It prompts high volumes of immune cells to rush to the brain where they basically start to attack healthy cells. That, in turn, can cause swelling and damage to brain cells. It limits blood flow to the brain, ultimately leaving it starving for oxygen and nutrients. Inflammation in the brain causes a lack of concentration and memory issues. It increases the risk of developing dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions as well.
Can the Brain Recover from Alcohol Damage?
With all that being the case, is the damage permanent? Can the brain recover from damage caused by excessive and prolonged alcohol use? The answer to that question is complicated.
First off, keep in mind that the human brain is extremely resilient. It has been known to adapt to severe injuries. When one part is damaged, it has a way of essentially rewiring itself to bridge the gap. This is known as neuroplasticity. Our brains can even regenerate parts that have been damaged in some cases through a process called neurogenesis. As such, it's certainly possible for the brain to recover from alcohol-induced damage with the right treatment and support.
That being said, several factors come into play here. For one, the longer your brain is routinely exposed to alcohol, the less capable it may be of repairing itself. How much you drink for those extended periods of time makes a difference too. Pre-existing conditions can hamper recovery as well.
Reversing the Effects of Alcohol-Induced Brain Damage
Alcohol affects the brain in many ways. Those effects extend well beyond the outwardly noticeable ones. Alcohol can cause physical damage to the brain and nervous system. In many cases, those effects are reversible. Once you stop drinking, some of the damage may begin to dwindle within a couple of weeks. Other issues may take months or years to fully resolve. Seeking help for alcohol addiction and its effects on the brain is the key to a full recovery.