How Does Alcohol Affect the Nervous System?

The central nervous system is responsible for some of the main functions of the body. Excessive consumption of alcohol affects it adversely. But actually how does alcohol affect the nervous system? That's what we will have a look at in this article.
WellnessKeen Staff
Last Updated: Mar 2, 2018
Alcohol is a drug and a powerful anesthetic sedative. Termed as a system-suppressor, alcohol does not aid in getting rid of depression, but instead escalates the condition even further.
The nervous system consists of:
  1. Central Nervous System
  2. Peripheral Nervous System
The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord, while the peripheral nervous system consists of the autonomic and somatic nervous systems. Both help every part of the body to communicate with each other, thereby coordinating all the activities of the body in a systematic way.
Effects on the Nervous System
  • Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, helps in transferring messages from the brain to the other parts of the body, and is closely associated with depression. Alcohol affects serotonin by increasing its level in the body. A high level of serotonin affects the brain by making the body addictive to alcohol. People later consume alcohol to overcome depression, assuming that it gives a feeling of pleasure, and think that it is the only way in which they can function normally.
  • Glutamate, another neurotransmitter is involved in the muscular functions of the body. Alcohol affects the glutamate receptor, thereby reducing the level of an individual's capacity to perform activities. This results in faulty speech, memory blackouts, and lack of coordination in the drinker.
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the body's natural control mechanism, is quietened by alcohol. It gives a sedating effect to the body. Alcohol increases the GABA activity in the body. As a result, the neuron's activity decreases, causing the brain to display less response time. Hence, drinking and driving is not advisable, since the drinker's response time becomes too slow to be able to avoid potential mishaps.
  • Another neurotransmitter named dopamine, controls the brain cells that affect emotional anxiety and movements of the body. Alcohol increases the dopamine level, thereby resulting in addiction.
  • Alcohol fills the bladder quickly. A person in the state of intoxication becomes careless, thereby stretching the bladder causing a back flow of urine into the kidneys. This may lead to a kidney infection and damage thereafter.
  • Alcohol slows the functioning of the central nervous system and alters a person's perception, emotion, movement, vision and hearing.
Effects on the Other Body Parts
  • The white blood corpuscles that fight infections and germs are drastically lowered, thereby making the drinker susceptible to diseases.
  • Alcohol addiction leads to vitamin deficiency. The digestive system is affected, and it becomes unsuccessful in absorbing the B-1 vitamin (thiamine), which keeps a person stress-free, and Vitamin C, which gives one energy.
  • Alcohol also decreases sexual functioning, and is linked to reduction of the male hormone testosterone. It also reduces the chances of conceiving in women.
  • Heavy intake in a short time span may cause alcohol poisoning, which in turn may result in violent vomiting, extreme sleepiness, unconsciousness, difficulty in breathing, dangerously low blood sugar levels, seizures, and even death.
  • Normal human activities take a backseat due to alcohol intoxication, leading to altered speech, hazy thinking, slowed reaction time, dulled hearing, impaired vision, weakened muscles, and a foggy memory.
Preventive Tips
  • It is of utmost importance to note that eating properly while consuming alcohol is absolutely necessary.
  • The trick is to drink slow. Sip the alcohol to make it last long.
  • The best way in fact is to avoid drinking by always have an excuse in hand to do so.
Related Facts
  • Alcohol does not warm one up in the cold weather, and is absorbed by the body faster than food.
  • Alcohol is fattening as it contains large chunks of calories in it.
  • Alcohol is also dehydrating, hence drinking a lot of water is advised.
  • Remember that it does not affect every individual in the same way, and depends on gender, size, weight, age, metabolism, the quantity consumed, and the duration of consumption.
  • Excessive consumption develops a throng of diseases, resulting in liver cirrhosis, increased risk of cancer, coma (a state of complete unconsciousness), and in some cases, even death.
  • Sudden alcohol withdrawal, in case of heavy drinkers, causes irritability and anxiety.
  • Large amounts of alcohol can make a person either very friendly and talkative or aggressive and angry.
Alcohol or ethanol (C2H5OH), made up of molecules of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, is a depressant; that slows down a person in doing his daily chores. It makes the individual anti-social in behavior, and is considered a major public health problem. Alcohol puts one's health at risk. Consumption in large quantities can be lethal. Hence, before drinking, always remember the golden rule, Prevention is better than cure.
Disclaimer: This WellnessKeen article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.
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