Scientific facts about the effect of alcohol on the human brain — does it destroy neurons and cells?

The debate about the effects of alcohol on the nervous system and brain is ongoing. Ethyl alcohol does have various effects: it can both thin the blood and thicken it.

Alcoholic beverages consumed in small quantities or ethanol in the composition of medicinal tinctures are excellent means to help the assimilation of useful substances that are found in some types of alcohol and medicines. If you take alcohol in large quantities, this will lead to the mass death of neurons in the cerebral cortex, which is confirmed by research .

In this article, we will take a detailed look at the effect of alcohol on cognitive functions and the human brain.

Mechanism of action

Ethyl alcohol affects absolutely all organs, as it very quickly ends up in the blood, which flows through the arteries at a speed of about 40 km / h.

Alcohol operates in stages:

  1. At the beginning alcohol dilates blood vessels and dilutes the blood. But this effect is observed when consuming medium-strength drinks in the amount of 50-100 g, and strong ones - 30-50 g.
  2. Consuming more volume leads, on the contrary, to blood thickening and destruction of brain cell membranes. This is inevitable, the only question is how many cells and neurons will die and continue to die.
  3. Ethanol also destroys the membranes of red blood cells, contributing to their adhesion to each other, which leads to the formation of clots. And blood clots turn into blood clots, blocking the flow of blood.
  4. Clots begin to clog the bloodstream, which leads to a lack of oxygen for brain cells. This fact, as well as the killing of neurons, creates a state of intoxication.
  5. With an increase in the concentration of ethanol in the blood, the activity of the heart undergoes changes, which begins to pound more often, pushing thickened blood faster, the passage of which is already hindered by clots. As a result, the cells of the cerebral cortex continue to bleed out and die.

If the heart and blood vessels cannot withstand the load, intoxication can result in a stroke or heart attack . It depends on the age of the person, his state of health, the duration of intoxication and the amount of alcohol consumed.

Learn more about the effects of alcohol on the cardiovascular system we talked in the last article.

If, after drinking alcohol, the concentration of ethanol in the body is measured, then it will be approximately 1.45 units in the liver, 1.5 units in the spinal cord, and 1.75 units in the brain.

What happens when consumed?

The mechanism of action of a large volume of ethanol on the brain shows that each dose has a detrimental effect on this organ, leaving numerous wounds in the tissues.

This happens because 86 billion neurons start dying much faster , than nature has predetermined it.

The death of more than 4% of nerve cells within 10 years leads to noticeable mental degradation of a person. Even externally, the shell of the alcoholic's brain is noticeably different from what this organ looks like in a non-drinker. The convolutions are usually smoothed, there are potholes on the surface, traces of hemorrhages and completely dead, non-functioning zones are noticeable. Moreover, it is precisely those areas that are related to higher nervous activity that are affected.

If we talk about the connection of human sensations with the processes that occur in the main organ of the body when drinking alcohol, then this is what will happen immediately after drinking alcohol:

  1. At the first moment vessels expand , blood circulation increases, mood rises slightly.
  2. Then there is a state of slight intoxication : so ethanol is already in the brain. Mild euphoria is already a sign of oxygen starvation.
  3. Increased arousal, intense euphoria indicates the death of cells. The medial anterior cerebral bundle, or pleasure center, is activated, and the production of the hormones of happiness endorphins is stimulated.
  4. Lethargy and apathy come to replace euphoria. This is followed by a hangover stage.
In some people or in some circumstances, instead of euphoria, the brain reacts in the form of aggression or simply turns off (loss of consciousness). This is due to the peculiarities of physiology, heredity, the stage of the disease of alcoholism and a number of other factors.

Depending on individual characteristics, starting from the second stage, pathological phenomena such as:

  • Disorders of the vestibular apparatus;
  • Slow pace and speech problems;
  • Hearing and vision impairment;
  • A state of emancipation, dulling feelings of shyness and even shame;
  • Attention and memory disorders.

The more alcohol in the blood, the more inappropriate a person behaves. This is due to the fact that not all lobes of the brain are working anymore, so the nerve cells of a drinker receive much less information from the outside than those of a sober person.  And in each particular case, this manifests itself in different ways: from complacency and frivolity to resentment and extreme bitterness.

Is it true that alcohol destroys brain cells?

Now doctors have no doubt that with regular and heavy alcohol consumption, all brain lobes are irreversibly affected: functions and viability are impaired:

  1. Hypothalamus;
  2. Of the thalamus;
  3. Cerebellum;
  4. Of the medulla and medulla oblongata.

The killed neurons are removed from the body after a day. But the destructive effect of alcohol continues. Because it stays in the brain tissues for a long time and is excreted for about 2 weeks after ingestion. How many exactly? It depends on the type of drink.

Only after this and under the condition of complete abstinence from alcohol and its complete withdrawal from the body, it is generally possible to talk about the beginning of the process of restoring cognitive functions. But with each precedent, it becomes more difficult to do this.

Alcoholism with signs of personal and physiological degradation occurs at different time intervals: it depends on many reasons.

The role is played by:

  1. Heredity;
  2. Gender;
  3. Age;
  4. Environment;
  5. Personality traits;
  6. Social status of the patient, etc.

Sometimes it happens that ethanol poison immediately damages the medulla oblongata, which leads to impaired respiratory function. If this department is immediately destroyed, a spasm of the respiratory organs appears, which can lead to coma and death.

In other cases, it is not easy to determine the speed and degree of moral and physical degradation. But if you consider that the consumption of this 100 ml of strong alcoholic drink kills 8,000 cells of the brain, it is easy to imagine how much this organ decreases in volume after a year, five years&8230; and also what consequences it will bring. Can you imagine how many cells die during a binge lasting several days&8230;

Features of influence on women

The question of the effect of alcohol on the brain of men and women is still open.

Some studies have shown that under the same circumstances, women, for example, get alcohol dependence and brain cell pathologies much faster than men.

But when examining patients, the degree of damage to individual organs turned out to be approximately at the same level in representatives of different sexes.

However, it is worth talking about the greater risk of alcoholism in women, because addiction is the same as men appeared in them with a much lower dosage and duration of abuse .

What are the consequences of abuse?

In those who abuse alcohol, the death of neurons occurs rapidly. Alcohol dependence develops and rapid degradation occurs. Here's what alcohol does to the body:

  1. Physiological changes. The thinking organ loses volume, its convolutions gradually smooth out, numerous hemorrhages and necrosis appear on the surface of the cortex, voids appear in the tissues. Blood vessels are affected, endocrine functions are disrupted, circulatory disorders and toxic brain damage appear. Liver dysfunction also develops.
  2. Nervous disorders. Emotional instability appears, depressive states that can only be treated with medication.
  3. Specific neurotic disorders. A number of specific diseases are the result of alcoholism and manifest themselves more often after stopping drinking alcohol: alcoholic epilepsy, delirium tremens, hallucinosis, paranoia, etc.
  4. Dementia. Problems arise with the simplest mental operations, critical thinking decreases, moral degradation develops, dementia appears, diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, etc.

Sometimes the symptoms of the effects of alcoholism can be seen even one or two decades after the cessation of abuse. These are external manifestations such as:

  • Hyperemia;
  • Hypertrophied gestures;
  • Muscle tone disorder;
  • Parkinsonism.

For more information, see the infographic:

Alcoholism in the anamnesis can sometimes be determined by a number of signs, even after many years of a person's sober life.

Recovery after prolonged use

Does the work of the thinking organ recover after giving up alcohol and how long does it take? In recent decades, medical scientists have argued that brain cells and neurons are capable of recovery, since their gradual death is a natural process.

The only problem is that in alcohol addicts the rate of destruction of neurons significantly exceeds the rate of their regeneration . And the process of their recovery after prolonged use takes quite a long time: years, and sometimes decades, but still does not lead to the absolutely desired result.

To return the thinking organ to an adequate state a number of conditions must be met:

  1. Give up alcohol consumption by 100% for at least a year, or better for good.
  2. Undergo detoxification with the help of medications, as well as observe special diet , which will help to clean the vessels .
  3. Lead a healthy lifestyle, useful for blood vessels : follow an appropriate diet, lead an active lifestyle.
  4. Engage in prevention and make up for losses: take vitamin and mineral complexes, antioxidants, etc .

But even observing these rules, it is impossible to accurately answer after what time all mental functions will be restored.

Is there any benefit?

Where did the theory come from that alcohol can be good for the brain if ethanol is so harmful to blood vessels and neurons?

The fact is that in limited quantities (50-150 ml for wines and 30-50 ml for spirits), as well as in the composition of medicines, ethyl alcohol can be beneficial under certain conditions.

  1. It relieves vascular tone, reducing pressure, reducing tension, improving blood circulation of the brain.
  2. Removes fatty deposits on the arteries and blood clots in the veins, thereby clearing the bloodstream. It is known that low doses of alcohol really help the vessels of the brain to be cleansed.
  3. Dilutes the blood , being the prevention of thrombosis and strokes.
  4. Promotes absorption of medicinal substances of drinks and medicinal tinctures , helps their rapid and high-quality assimilation by the body.

That is, alcohol can really not harm in any way, but on the contrary, become an assistant in improving the brain.

But at the same time:

  • You can not deviate from the prescribed dosage (and very few can do this);
  • It is necessary to use this remedy only from time to time and for therapeutic purposes. It is better to relax after a hard day using other methods, without alcohol;
  • Consume only really healthy drinks, the value of which is the presence of important vitamins, minerals, organic acids and antioxidants in them.

Is it possible to drink with certain diseases?

The presence of the disease makes its own adjustments to the nuances of alcohol consumption. Different types of alcoholic beverages can be useful or harmful for various pathologies, ailments and diseases of the blood vessels and brain.

  1. After concussion . Concussion is a mechanical action, a kind of bruise that has an effect similar to alcohol intoxication (poisoning). Concussion is accompanied by changes in blood pressure, dizziness, loss of coordination and even orientation, nausea, vomiting. Therefore, it is not worth adding stress after a concussion with alcohol. Violation of this rule can lead to increased headache, hypertensive crisis, vasospasm and cerebral edema, stroke, coma. Exactly how much should I not drink? Until full recovery.
  2. In case of stroke . Good red wine , cognac , consumed in small doses, really cleanse and strengthen blood vessels, as well as prevent atherosclerosis and stroke. However, immediately after the onset of a stroke, in no case should the condition be aggravated, which is characterized by loss of consciousness, hemorrhage, sometimes paralysis, etc .
  3. In atherosclerosis . A small and periodically taken dose of high-quality alcohol helps to reduce the level of harmful cholesterol and stimulates the production of beneficial cholesterol in the liver, dissolves fatty deposits on the walls of blood vessels, cleanses the blood and improves blood circulation. Exceeding the recommended dose leads to the opposite effect.
  4. In hypoxia . Brain hypoxia occurs at the first signs of intoxication, the degree of which dictates the amount of harm from hypoxia. Alcohol is the direct culprit of oxygen starvation. However, in the hangover stage, a minimum dose of ethanol can save you from a stroke.
  5. With a cyst . This is a benign neoplasm. But it can lead to malfunctions of some lobes of the brain. Therefore, the cyst should not be disturbed. That is, any negative processes are dangerous: the slightest increase in blood pressure, blood clots, etc. Alcohol is undesirable until the disease is cured.
  6. With a tumor . Oncology is a mysterious disease. Despite the fact that some alcoholic beverages have an anti-cancer effect, since they contain a large amount of antioxidants, it is not necessary to provoke an existing disease with an additional load on the diseased organ. Moreover, even a healthy drink cannot be a decisive factor in healing.

You should also not drink alcohol before MRI and other diagnostic procedures.

Interesting video

And now we invite you to familiarize yourself with the video:

People have been drinking alcohol for centuries. With knowledge of its properties and skillful use, some brain diseases can be prevented. But you can also harm him if you do not know the measures and principles of influence on the body. Thoughtless and excessive use can completely destroy this fragile but important organ.