27 Apr The Effects of Alcohol on the Brain
While the effects of alcohol on the human brain have been studied longer than any other drug, there is still a lot that researchers don’t know.
For other drugs like cocaine, heroin, or marijuana, scientists have been able to determine specific proteins that the drugs bind to in order to cause a reaction in specific areas of the brain. This information is necessary to develop the most effective treatments for addiction rehabilitation and for treating patients who have overdosed. But until recently, scientists have been unsure about what exactly happens when alcohol enters the brain. They have been able to thoroughly document the behavioral effects of alcohol consumption and the toll it takes on the rest of the body, but not in the brain.
This is largely because the molecules that comprise alcohol are so small and difficult to track. Research done in the past decade or so has shown another reason why this information has been so elusive. It appears that alcohol doesn’t have just one protein that it binds to strongly, but rather it loosely binds to several different proteins within the brain, which allows it to affect many different areas of the brain at once.
The following is a list of the main sections of the brain and what impairments alcohol causes when present:
Frontal Lobe: Decreased sense of reason, caution, intelligence, communication, inhibitions, and social skills
Parietal Lobe: Slowed reaction time, loss of fine motor skills, and shakiness
Temporal Lobe: Reduction or loss of hearing and slurred speech
Occipital Lobe: Misjudgment of distance, altered vision
Cerebellum: Decreased balance and coordination
Medulla: Reduction or cessation of vital functions such as breathing and heartbeat
As the alcohol molecules make their way through the brain, they have an effect on every part of the brain in some way, with the most serious effects putting those who have had too much to drink at risk for death.
As scientists uncover more information about how alcohol interacts with the chemicals in the brain and what effects this has on a person, they are coming closer to developing new treatment methods for people struggling with alcoholism. Since alcohol is the most widely abused drug in the world, costing more in medical costs each year than every other drug combined, this information is invaluable for the future of healthcare.