Alcohol, for some, becomes an addiction, based on interactions between alcohol and the brain. The consequences of alcohol abuse can be severe on the individual, families, and society.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. Alcohol treatment has an excellent track record in turning lives around.
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4 Ways Alcohol Impacts the Brain
As we all know, it isn’t hard to spot someone who has had too much to drink. They might be unsteady on their feet, slurring their words, showing an uncharacteristic lack of inhibitions or other personality changes. Here are four main ways that alcohol impacts the brain:
- Moments of depression. Alcohol slows down the central nervous system, and when it goes beyond a certain point, it can lead to moments of darkness.
- Euphoria. Alcohol initially triggers a brain chemical that makes people feel excited and happy. Unfortunately, that feeling soon wears off.
- Clumsiness. With enough quantity, alcohol can interfere with motor skills. That’s why police who stop you on suspicion of drunk driving may ask you to walk a straight line.
- Confusion. In extreme cases, alcohol can cause memory loss. That’s the condition that people describe as the “blackout” phase.
Alcohol and the brain are in constant interaction. It’s good to remember that the more your drink, the more severe the reactions are.
What is Alcoholism?
In terms of alcohol and the brain, you might wonder when you’ve reached the stage of alcoholism. The truth is alcoholism doesn’t relate to how much you drink. It is a condition measured by what alcohol does to your life.
Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, happens when someone continues to drink despite the personal, legal, professional, or health problems it causes. When a person reaches that stage, alcohol has now reconfigured their brain function. The brain believes it cannot function normally without alcohol.
Unfortunately, you can’t just stop drinking and expect things to go back to normal. When you do, the brain thinks something is wrong and triggers withdrawal.
Withdrawal shows up in the form of vomiting, diarrhea, or other physical symptoms. It’s usually a sign that it’s time to seek help from a rehab facility such as Northern Illinois Recovery Center.
Treatment for an Alcohol Use Disorder
Everyone has a different journey through alcohol abuse. Based on your circumstances, doctors will design an individualized treatment plan. But you can expect to go through the following stages:
- Intake/assessment to establish how healthy you are mentally and physically.
- Planning, where doctors build a comprehensive treatment plan.
- Detox, where you “step down” your level of drinking gradually as doctors monitor your withdrawal.
- Counseling, involving meetings with therapists to discuss the circumstances of your addiction and better ways to cope with stress
- Aftercare, which consists of resources that lower the risk of a relapse.
Alcohol and the brain and how they interact can trigger severe problems. Treatment can help put them to a stop.
Help for Alcohol Abuse at Northern Illinois Recovery Center
Licensed Physician and Surgeon
Dr. Beth Dunlap, a board-certified addiction medicine and family medicine physician, and is the medical director at Northern Illinois Recovery Center. She is responsible for overseeing all the integrated medical services at both campuses. Beth completed medical school, residency, and fellowship at Northwestern University, where she continues to serve on the faculty as a member of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She has extensive experience in addiction medicine at all levels of care, and her clinical interests include integrated primary care and addiction medicine, harm reduction, and medication-assisted treatment.