How Does Alcohol Affect The Brain?

How Does Alcohol Affect The Brain?

After swallowing some kind of alcohol, the liquid goes rushing through the body’s digestive system making it’s way toward the stomach, the liver, the intestine, and more. There is much research to indicate what happens in the gut dictates what happens in the mind. When alcohol reaches the GI tract, it is absorbed by cells called epithelial cells and carried off into the bloodstream where it heads for your head.

Moving through the brain and the rest of the body, alcohol reaches the liver where it is processed and metabolized. The liver is one of the most heavily affected organs of the body by alcoholism because the small organ can only process so much alcohol at a time. Binge drinking is defined as four to five or more drinks in one sitting, which is considered to be about two hours. One drink per hour is the liver’s average rate of metabolizing alcohol. Drinking alcoholically generally means drinking beyond a binge drinking level, which means drinking far beyond what the liver can handle for processing. As a result, there is a backup of alcohol building in the bloodstream, waiting to be processed and metabolized by the liver. More alcohol in the bloodstream means more unprocessed, not metabolized alcohol heading to the brain. Once the build up of alcohol is enough, it enters the brain. Alcohol in the brain saturates neurological functioning, affecting every single function of the brain by slowing the down and reducing their activity.

How Alcohol Creates Euphoria

Neurons communicate and function through the work of small messaging chemicals called neurotransmitters which send either excited or inhibited signals to the neurons. Alcohol excites some neurotransmitters and inhibits others, which is why certain functions seem to disappear when you’re intoxicated by alcohol and other sensations, like euphoria, seem to take over entirely. Euphoria is primarily the result of an excess production of a neurotransmitter called dopamine which sends messaging signals of pleasure throughout the brain, particularly to the reward center of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. The reward center doesn’t just create pleasure, it stores memory of pleasure, making sure that the brain distinctly remembers alcohol as an exceptional source of the exceptional pleasure the brain experiences as a result.

How Alcohol Impairs Judgment And Memory

As anyone who has experienced a “bad drunk” can testify to be true, it seems as through the line between pleasurably drunk and problematically drunk is all too blurry. Just when euphoria seems its greatest, all of your executive functioning starts losing functioning from judgement to depth perception, to decision-making. All of your executive functioning lives in the prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum. Your memory lives in the hippocampus which, when deactivated enough by alcohol, stops working as well, conveniently erasing many of the “mistakes” you probably made with poor judgment and decision-making.

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