Alcohol alters the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain which are the chemical messengers that transmit signals all through the body to control daily functions such as emotions, behaviors and thinking processes. The neurotransmitters of the brain are either excitatory which means there is an increase in brain activity or they are inhibitory which means there is a decrease in brain activity. Alcohol increases the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA which results in sluggish movements and slurred speech. Alcohol also increases the dopamine to the reward center of the brain creating a satisfying feeling resulting in repeated use.
The short term effects on the brain are called blackouts. Blackouts are short term memory lapses in which the drinker may or may not remember what happened. Short term effects may also include throwing up, frequent urinary problems, and perspiration.
The long term effects of alcohol abuse include: permanent damage on the brain causing it to shrink, leading to deficiencies in the fibers that carry information between brain cells. Many alcoholics develop a condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. This is a deficiency in vitamin B which causes mental confusion, lack of coordination, and extensive memory problems and learning issues. The body and brain become dependent on alcohol, which causes debilitating changes in the chemistry of the brain. When a person stops or dramatically reduces the alcohol consumption withdrawal occurs within 24-72 hours. Symptoms of withdrawal include disorientation, hallucinations, delirium tremens, nausea, sweating, and seizures. In some occurrences may even lead to death.
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