According to a new study by US neuroscientists, alcohol pulls chemical levers in the brain to create positive experiences and cravings to consume more. The research reveals that one single alcoholic drink can affect memory formation for hours, creating critical changes in the brain’s chemistry to reinforce positive behaviors.
These new insights into brain function at a molecular level reveal that even the smallest alteration caused by alcohol can impair a person’s memory for days. The study also explains how it is possible for alcoholics to relapse even after decades of abstinence. Indeed, it is already widely recognized by the majority of alcohol treatment centers that alcoholism is a chronic relapsing illness requiring alcohol rehab.
Alcohol use and abuse have been linked with a host of cognitive changes including confusion, lack of inhibitions, abnormal thought processes and poor decision-making. People who drink alcohol recreationally are generally able to recover from its effects without any complications. However, even a small loss of brain function can result in legal, financial or relationship issues and the individual is recommended to enter alcohol abuse treatment.
The degree of damage alcohol does to the brain is determined by the volume and regularity of consumption. Here is a general guideline:
Occasional or Recreational Drinkers
Using alcohol occasionally is not uncommon in today’s society although drinking from time to time can still produce short-term effects. Even after a few drinks a person’s memory can be impaired and can lead to behavior that is outside of their personality. This can lead to them taking unnecessary risks such as having casual sexual encounters or driving while intoxicated. However, although an occasional drinker may feel some of the unpleasant effects of alcohol after a social occasion or event, it is likely to pass quickly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Dietary Guidelines, a moderate drinker is considered to be a person who consumes one drink for women or two drinks for men each day. It is likely that quite a big proportion of Americans fall into this category as it is not considered unusual to have a glass of wine or a cool beer after a long and stressful day.
That said a moderate drinker is also inclined to be less aware of how much alcohol they regularly consume and may often consume more than they realize. Even if this is not the case, moderate alcohol consumption has been linked with an increased risk of breast cancer and also car accidents. Media reports have been unhelpful in suggesting that moderate drinking such as a glass of red wine a day has positive health benefits, which is something that alcohol abuse treatment specialists refute completely.
Heavy and Chronic Drinking
Someone with developed alcohol addiction or alcoholism who drinks heavily for a prolonged period of time is at risk of long-term deficits in brain function. Some of the damage done to the brain by heavy drinking can cause cognitive problems that continue even after sobriety has been achieved. This is one of the key reasons it is essential to get alcohol abuse treatment as soon as a problem is detected.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the majority of heavy drinkers will experience some degree of impairment of intellectual functioning. Alcohol abuse that also destroys brain cells and chronic drinking often lead to the braining shrinking in size. The most common cognitive impairments caused by heavy or chronic alcohol consumption are the ability to think abstractly or logically and a loss of perception and memory relating to the location of objects in 2 or 3-dimensional spaces. The latter is manifested by a confused mental state and intense sense of disorientation.
How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works in Alcohol Treatment Centers
Due to the extensive and negative effects of alcohol on brain function, once a person has accepted they need help for their problem, evidence-based therapies like CBT can help them. CBT seeks to unravel a person’s cycle of addictive behavior by identifying the negative thoughts, emotions, and feelings driving it. Once the thought patterns that trigger substance abuse have been identified, it is then possible to make changes to the way the person thinks.
One of the most important objectives of alcohol rehab is to prepare patients for the long-haul of recovery which lasts a lifetime. This requires significant changes in the way they feel about themselves and their place in the world. Low self-esteem, depression or anxiety can all result in a person turning to alcohol to self-medicate making it important to address those negative issues on an alcoholism treatment program.
Ultimately, the dangers of alcohol use and abuse are significant and they affect millions of Americans every year. Reaching out to an alcohol treatment center is not an easy decision for many people with AUD to make and they often require the additional support of loved ones to get them into rehab. Nevertheless, the sooner a person who is struggling with alcohol is able to start an alcohol rehab program, the easier they will find the process of overcoming their illness.