Alcohol Addiction and the Brain

Alcohol Addiction and the Brain: The Damage Alcohol Abuse Can Cause

Few people understand just how dangerous alcohol addiction is. In fact, experts say that it is the most dangerous drug in the world, even more dangerous than heroin or crack. Even though it’s a widely accepted form of socialization, drinking alcohol has dark side too. In this article, we will discuss alcohol addiction and the brain to better understand the dangers of abusing alcohol.

Alcohol Addiction and the Brain

When one looks at the effects that alcohol have when a person drinks just one or two drinks, it’s clear that the brain is one of the affected organs. When a person drinks, they experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Slow reaction times
  • Coordination and balance problems making it difficult to walk
  • Memory impairment
  • A loss of inhibitions

These are just some of the side effects of alcohol abuse on the brain. However, just a day or two without drinking is enough to reverse these mild effects.  But when a person drinks for a long time outside of safe parameters (roughly 7 drinks for women and 14 drinks for men per week), then there are many more severe side effects of alcohol abuse.

Long-term heavy drinking can cause far-reaching problems that don’t necessarily dissipate when alcohol use stops. Not only are long-term heavy drinkers risking the many dangers associated with alcohol addiction and the brain, but even short-term, heavy drinking can lead to the following problems:

  • Behavioral changes
  • Mood changes.
  • Chromic vitamin deficiencies that can lead to several problems throughout the body.
  • Scar tissue in the brain’s white matter, which has been linked to cognitive problems such as poor concentration.

Alcohol addiction and the brain are linked to permanent brain damage when abuse of alcohol is severe. This happens because alcohol interrupts and effects the pathways used for communication in the brain. It alters the way the brain functions and looks.

Influences that Intensify Brain Damage

The extent of the damage that alcohol causes on the brain can be affected by:

  • The health status of the individual, with poor health leading to greater damage.
  • Potential prenatal alcohol damage caused by exposure during this crucial time.
  • Genetic and environmental factors such as the age, genetic background, gender and if there is alcoholism in the family.
  • The age that the person first started drinking, with younger people being more affected and at higher risk of developing alcoholism.
  • How long the person has been drinking heavily for.
  • How much they drink at a time and how often they drink heavily.

Alcohol and the Developing Brain

Alcohol abuse has an even great effect on a developing brain. If a mother drinks alcohol during important stages of pregnancy, then there is a high risk of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) developing. This is a collection of symptoms that alcohol and the developing brain has that most notably causes distinct facial features. An infant born with the syndrome is expected to have some of the following symptoms that impede their natural development:

  • Misshapen facial structure, such as a low nasal bridge, short nose, thin upper lip, smaller eye openings, and a smaller than usual head circumference
  • Delayed development
  • Aggression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Poor impulse control
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Low birth weight
  • Slowed growth
  • Speech impairment
  • Vision disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Malnutrition
  • Short stature

Addicted mothers are advised to seek professional care the moment they discover that they are pregnant because alcoholism can be treated before it’s allowed to do further damage.


If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.