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Dr. Christopher S. Baird

How bad of an alcoholic do you have to be to have your brain affected?

Category: Chemistry      Published: August 2, 2013

One drink of alcohol is enough to affect your brain, whether you are an alcoholic or a casual social drinker. Alcohol is a psychoactive drug that interferes directly with the normal functioning of many parts of the brain. Fortunately, much of the effect caused by alcohol consumption can be repaired by the body when the person stops drinking. But ongoing alcohol consumption at heavy levels can cause damage so severe that the body cannot repair it and the damage becomes permanent. The National Institute of Health states,

"Difficulty walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reaction times, impaired memory: Clearly, alcohol affects the brain. Some of these impairments are detectable after only one or two drinks and quickly resolve when drinking stops. On the other hand, a person who drinks heavily over a long period of time may have brain deficits that persist well after he or she achieves sobriety...Alcohol can produce detectable impairments in memory after only a few drinks and, as the amount of alcohol increases, so does the degree of impairment. Large quantities of alcohol, especially when consumed quickly and on an empty stomach, can produce a blackout, or an interval of time for which the intoxicated person cannot recall key details of events, or even entire events."

Drinking alcohol (ethanol) is a two-carbon alcohol with the molecular formula CH3–CH2–OH. The hydroxyl group on the end (-OH) is able to participate in hydrogen bonding and accounts for much of its physical properties.

Topics: alcohol, brain, brain damage, drinking, drunk