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How Alcohol Use Affects Your Brain

Alcohol maintains a strong foothold in the popular imagination. It has become so normalized in American culture that it’s common for co-workers to invite each other to happy hours to close out a workweek, or for people to meet at a bar for their first date. Recreational drinkers who only imbibe occasionally don’t usually suffer adverse effects. However, there is a host of both long- and short-term mental problems associated with habitual alcohol use.

The Cognitive Problems With Alcohol Misuse

Alcohol is one of the most commonly used and abused drugs in the United States, not only because of its role as a societal lubricant, but also because it is so easy to obtain. While drinking in moderation does not cause people to develop substance misuse issues that adversely affect their lives, people who engage in heavy use and binge drinking can experience cognitive side effects such as:

When people who abuse alcohol stop drinking, they can reverse much of the damage alcohol does to their brains. However, if you have abused alcohol for many years, you may find some problems with brain function remain even years after you achieve sobriety. Former alcoholics often find impaired cognitive skills affect their daily lives. They might struggle to carry out the same tasks others without a history of substance abuse can perform with no problems, such as identifying patterns or assessing the distance between objects. 

Alcohol Use and Your Mental Health

Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, and can affect functions such as breathing, speech, thought, memory and movement. Heavy drinking, even if you don’t do it often, can lead to short-term psychiatric problems such as insomnia and mood swings.

There is also a link between people who develop substance addictions and those who live with mental health or disorders like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and PTSD. The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 8.2 million U.S. adults had both a mental health problem and a substance use disorder within the previous year.

Because each condition magnifies the effects of the other, it can be unclear whether alcohol causes or merely accompanies the underlying psychological disorder (or vice versa). However, it is possible for people struggling with both an addiction and a co-occurring disorder to receive treatment that addresses both issues simultaneously. 

Don’t Lose It All to Alcohol

Is alcoholism robbing you of your full potential? Inland Detox can be your first step toward healing your mind and body. Our alcohol detox program will allow you to safely stop using alcohol in a comfortable environment where medical professionals monitor and minimize your withdrawal symptoms. Once you are mentally and physically free of alcohol, our team can help you transition smoothly into your next phases of treatment. Get help now to take your first steps along the road to better health and a more rewarding life.