Because of its many functions and sensitivity to change, the brain is one of the body organs most affected by alcohol consumption. Alcohol use can alter any brain function, including reasoning, emotion, and judgment.

Despite the fact that each person tolerates this substance with different foams there are a number of effects of alcohol on the brain that all people experience to a greater or lesser extent . The following will explain what these effects are and how serious they are.

Individual differences in the effects of alcohol

It is more than known that alcohol consumption, both occasional and recurrent, can have numerous effects on the brain. When this consumption is excessive, due to alcoholism problems, it can cause irreversible deterioration of the brain.

However, while there are common patterns, the consequences of drinking are not the same for everyone; there are considerable differences according to age, gender, or weight.

The following are a number of factors that determine both how and to what degree alcohol affects the brain:

  • Assiduity with which the person consumes alcohol .
  • Age at which you started drinking alcohol and duration of consumption.
  • The person’s current age.
  • Level of education.
  • Sex.
  • Genetic background .
  • .

  • Family history of alcoholism.
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure.
  • General health status .
  • Short and long term effects of alcohol

Alcohol has the ability to begin to generate effects on the body, however slight, from the first drink. All these short-term effects are intensified and preserved over time as consumption becomes more and more frequent.

Short-term effects of alcohol on the brain

The first effects a person who has consumed alcohol at any dose may experience include motor impairment, difficulty walking, slow reaction times, or slurred speech.

There are also a number of more serious consequences that appear between the first moments of alcohol consumption until hours or even days after its intake. These effects are as follows.

1. Emotional changes

Alcohol consumption leads to a series of imbalances in brain chemistry that affect both behaviour and thoughts, feelings and emotions . These disturbances in brain chemistry favour the appearance of emotional changes such as anxiety, depression or aggression.

Although traditionally, people have used alcohol as a means to become uninhibited, to feel relaxed or even to be more sociable and outgoing; excessive alcohol intake tends to transform these emotions into anxiety, aggression and sadness or depression in the short term.

2. Memory lapses

Alcohol intake can lead to minor damage to the hippocampus. This deterioration manifests itself through memory lapses, which may occur only a few hours after consuming small amounts of alcohol .

However, when this is ingested in large quantities, on an empty stomach and in short periods of time, the person may experience forgetfulness of longer intervals of time or even complete events.

3. Loss of consciousness

Syncopes, or brief periods of unconsciousness, are common in those who drink large amounts of alcohol very quickly. This rapid intake causes blood alcohol levels to rise rapidly, leading to fainting and loss of consciousness.

4. Impulsivity

Consuming alcohol in both small and large doses, can interfere with the connections of the brain’s prefrontal cortex . This area mediates the person’s impulsivity, as well as the organization of his or her behavior.

When blood alcohol levels begin to rise, the person is susceptible to experiencing impulsive behaviors that they probably would never have carried out under conditions of sobriety.

However, just like changes in aggressiveness, these alterations also depend on the predisposition or character of the person . That is, a person who tends to be aggressive or impulsive in normal situations will be much more susceptible to suffer these effects, or will experience them with greater intensity, than a person who tends to be calm.

Long-term effects

As discussed above, any long-term effects of alcohol can be sustained over time as consumption changes from one-time to recurrent. Some of these long-term effects are as follows.

1. Development of emotional disorders

Excessive alcohol consumption is closely related to certain diseases and emotional disorders such as depression or anxiety.

This is because drinking alcoholic beverages regularly alters the brain’s serotonin levels , specifically tending to decrease them. The drop in the levels of this neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood favours the appearance of all kinds of emotional disorders in the person.

2. Limits brain development in adolescents

Consumption at early ages is becoming increasingly common, especially during adolescence. This consumption that is carried out in a social way can end up interfering in the correct brain development of young people.

As a consequence of these variations, the adolescent may develop significant deficits in the recovery of verbal and non-verbal information and in visuospatial functioning.

Also, because the brain is not fully developed during this stage, teenage alcohol users are much more likely to develop learning and memory difficulties.

3. Neuron destruction

In addition to slowing down brain development during adolescence, alcohol consumption also affects neurodevelopment in adulthood.

During this stage, the consumption of high doses of alcohol prevents the growth of new cells and reduces the number of neurons in the brain in certain areas. However, this damage is more visible in specific areas of these nerve cells: the axons, prolongations that form the wiring of the nervous system .

4. Damage to the hippocampus

As described above, the destruction of neurons can lead to serious deterioration in the hippocampus. This brain region is responsible for intervening in memory storage, so a series of frequent binges or an alcohol addiction can permanently damage the brain, altering the ability to memorize.

This deficit in memory storage can be preserved even after alcohol addiction has been overcome.

5. Psychosis

An extreme addiction to alcohol can generate a state or disorder of psychosis in people, who experience all kinds of hallucinations, paranoia and delusions .

If a person with a long history of alcoholism abruptly stops drinking, he or she may develop alcohol withdrawal, also known as “delirium tremens.

This syndrome causes a hyperstimulation of the adrenergic system, causing headaches, constant agitation, body tremors, nausea and vomiting , hallucinations and even death.

6. Wernike-Korsakoff Syndrome

Alcohol addiction causes, in 80% of the cases, a deficiency of vitamin B1 or thiamine . This decrease in thiamine levels is a risk factor for developing Wernike-Korsakoff syndrome.

This condition is distinguished because the person simultaneously presents a Wernike’s encephalopathy and in known Korsakoff’s syndrome. Both diseases are caused by a lack of this vitamin.