Does Alcohol Kill Brain Cells?

Waking up with a raging hangover can often make a person wonder about the extent of alcohol brain damage because often these episodes include severe headaches and loss of motor skills. Many people feel that they must have had suffered from a head stroke or something like that which is the probable reason behind the pesky headaches and nausea that accompany any hangover. However, alcohol does not directly kill brain cells, particularly when the drinker has opted to consume it in moderation.

How alcohol affects the brain can depend on the amount of alcohol consumed. Heavy consumption of alcohol can definitely cause damage to the nerve cell endings or the dendrites. Therefore, the answer to the query about does alcohol kill brain cells is that it does not directly lead to their death but can definitely impair their function. The endings of the neural cell bodies are essential for ensuring efficient conveying of the neural impulses across the synapses, which is the backbone of the functioning of the central nervous system in the body. Prolonged exposure to alcohol often dulls the response time of a person, and compromises with the efficiency of the senses as well.

Alcohol is capable of reaching the brain in a rapid manner once person ingests it. This is because it efficiently crosses the epithelial cell lining of the stomach to gain direct access to the bloodstream, which takes it to every corner of the body. The effects of alcohol brain damage such as the damage to the dendrites or the neural cell endings is often reversible, but can turn into something more permanent in case of prolonged alcohol abuse. This is due to the development of a neurological disorder termed as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which results in permanent loss of dendrites in certain portions of the brain. However, there is no clear scientific evidence to prove that alcohol consumption leads to direct destruction of the brain cells.

The long-term effects caused by the aforementioned syndrome are not due to the direct action of the alcohol, but due to the impairment, it causes to the ability of the body to absorb the essential Thiamin, which is an essential B vitamin. Thus, alcohol results in the damage of the brain cell, albeit indirectly. This ought to be reason enough to give up excessive drinking of alcohol, or better to quit it completely. However, the answer to the query about does alcohol kill brain cells is a ‘No’ because of lack of concrete evidence to the contrary.

How does alcohol affect the brain?

Thus, it is quite apparent that alcohol does not lead to direct destruction of the brain cells. However, one query that ought to be on the mind of most regular drinkers are that how does alcohol affect the brain. This is a complex question to answer because the human brain is an excruciatingly complex entity, and most of its functions are as a result of multiple interactions between multiple parts. Thus, the complete picture regarding the effects that alcohol has on the human brain is yet to emerge. Even then, some of the effects that it has on human behavior are quite apparent, and that goes to show the lightning speed with which alcohol travels to the brain.

The most common telltale signs of how does alcohol affect the brain after intoxication include blurring of vision, slurring of speech, and general loss of motor skills. This is because alcohol affects the very brain faculties that are responsible for carrying out these body functions. Therefore, the preliminary effects of alcohol on the brain consist of the behavior that people usually associate with drunkards. This is because alcohol affects the cerebellum region of the brain, which is responsible for the muscle coordination of the body, as well as, maintaining its balance. Thus, people who have drunk a drink too much, find it hard to get their bearings right and also to walk along a straight line.

Alcohol can act as a depressant, which leads to slowing down of the brain activity by the release of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA that produces effects such as slowing of heart rate and lowering of body temperature, as well as, other general signs of sedation. On the other hand, alcohol effects on the brain include inhibition of glutamate, which is an excitatory type of neurotransmitter and is associated with increased brain activity and energy level. Moreover, alcohol induces release of a hormone, dopamine, into the reward centre of the brain. Thus, novice drinkers associate drinking with a pleasurable sensation, which persuades them to continue drinking. This release of dopamine continues to drop as a person adapts to the presence of alcohol in his or her system, till it completely stops. However, a person gets hooked to the addiction by then, and is unable to give up. This sensation is stronger is men which might explain the greater prevalence of drinking for this gender.

Alcohol can seriously interfere with the sleep quality of the person because the brain often takes a few hours to cope up with the presence of increased alcohol level in blood. By the time it finds ways around the inhibitory actions performed by the alcohol, the person might be asleep. However, the brain tries to compensate and results in restless night of sleep. Finally, alcohol addiction often leads to prolonged bouts of depression, and may end up in making a person feel suicidal. Thus, the effects of alcohol on the brain are quite harmful, and can easily lead to long-term damage.
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