Alcoholism And The Effect Off Alcohol on The Brain

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The world Health organization suggest the use of Alcohol dependence Syndrome instead of alcoholism. The condition is defined as “a state, psychic, and usually also physical, resulting from taking alcohol, characterized by behavioral and other response that always include a compulsion to take alcohol on a continuous or periodic basis in order to experience psychic effects, and sometimes to avoid the discomfort of its absence; tolerance may or may not be present”(1992, p.4).

Alcohol has been used by the human population from the ancient times. Beer was first made in Egypt around 3000 B.C while the oldest wine making formulas were recorded By Marcus Cato in Italy almost a century and a half before Christ. Around 800 A.D the process of distillation was developed by an Arabian alchemist, which made it possible to increase alcoholic beverage both in range and potency.

Problems with excessive use of alcohol were observed almost as early as its use began. King Cambyses of Persia who reigned in the sixth century B.C, is among the first alcoholic abuser known on record. Alcohol dependence in the United States cuts across all age, educational, occupational, and socioeconomic boundaries. It is considered a serious problem in all professions including priesthood, politicians, lawyers, surgeons, law enforcement agents and the military .

A study done in 2001, reported that there were about 244,331 alcohol-related visits to an emergency room in the USA among people of ages 13-25 years. Of these about 119, 503 were people below 21 years, the legal age of drinking.

Alcohol’s Effect on the brain

The way alcohol works in the brain is only beginning to be understood, but several psychological effects are common. The first is a tendency toward decreased sexual inhibition while simultaneously lowering sexual performance.

Another effect experienced by most alcoholics is blackouts or lapses of memory. Hangover is another effect experienced by most alcohol drinkers at one time or another.

Alcohol has seemingly contradictory effects on the brain. At lower levels alcohol stimulates certain brain cells and activates the brain’s “pleasure areas”. These release opium like endogenous opioids that are stored in the body.

At higher level alcohol depresses brain functioning, inhibiting one of the brain’s excitatory neurotransmitters, glutamate, which in turn slows activity in parts of the brain, (Koob, Mason, et al, 2002).

Inhibition of glutamate in the brain impairs organisms ability to learn and affects the higher brain centers, impairing judgment and other rational processes which also lowers self control. As behavior restraint decline, a person may indulge in the satisfaction of impulses ordinarily held in check.

Motor uncordination becomes apparent and the drinker’s discrimination and perception of cold, pain, and other discomforts are dulled. Most states in America consider any one whose alcohol content is 0.08% intoxicated and legally barred from driving.

At 0.08% intoxication, muscular coordination, speech and vision are impaired and thought process confused. Alcohol also impairs judgment causing a person to misjudge their condition. This is how people who are intoxicated end up doing foolish things like driving when it is unsafe to do so.

By the time a person’s level of intoxication reaches 0.5 % the entire neural balance is upset and the individual may pass out. The act of passing out acts as a safety device because trying to concentrate when intoxicated 0.55% is usually lethal to the person.

The amount of alcohol concentrated in the body fluids and not the amount consumed determines intoxication. One must note that women metabolize alcohol less effectively than men and as a result become intoxicated on lesser amount of alcohol  than men.

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