Alcohol: Mental effects

Last modified: Wednesday, 24. December 2008 - 4:00 am

Alcohol acts as a depressant on the brain. Blood carries alcohol to the brain, where it acts on the body’s central nervous system to slow a person’s mental responses. There are a variety of mental effects associated with alcohol consumption. The more immediate are: a lessening of inhibitions, mental relaxation, exaggerated emotional response to people and situations, extreme changes in behavior, and impaired judgment. Low doses of alcohol can cause the release of certain chemicals in the brain that can cause a sense of euphoria — a “high” that makes alcohol seem like a stimulant. Memory is sharpened and the ability to think creatively is strengthened, but when alcohol consumption increases, its sedative effects cause a loss of self-control and inhibition. A self-conscious individual becomes more confident; a shy person becomes more talkative. Alcohol also can cause people to become argumentative or emotionally withdrawn. Relationship problems can develop. Judgment is affected and risk-taking behaviors can result. People are known to do things under the influence of alcohol that they would never consider doing when sober. As alcohol consumption increases and levels of alcohol in the blood rise, the reflexes are slowed; memory loss and a sense of confusion can occur. Committing crimes or being the victim of a crime, domestic violence, child abuse, automobile accidents, homicide, and suicide are among the events related to the consumption of alcohol.

The effects of alcohol are related to the size of the person and the amount of alcohol in the blood, as well as to the rate of consumption. After one drink a person weighing about 150 lb (68 kg) will feel relaxed and happy. After two drinks in an hour a person will fell less inhibited. Three drinks will affect a person’s muscle control. Speech can become slurred and walking may be difficult. After four drinks judgment is affected and the ability to reason becomes impaired. Five drinks will make speech patterns difficult to understand and impair vision. After six drinks a person may begin to lose consciousness and fall asleep. Ten or more drinks can cause a person to fall into a deep sleep also known as “passing out.” Long-term alcohol use can result in serious neurological disorders in the brain such as confusion, coordination problems, short-term memory loss, and emotional as well as psychological problems.

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