Does Alcohol Kill Brain Cells?

Well, long story short, it doesn’t.

Researchers from the Washington University in St. Louis found out that even when alcohol is directly applied to your brain cells, it doesn’t kill them. So yeah, the research is pretty conclusive. But before you breathe a sigh of relief, know that...

Alcohol Does Do Great Damage to Your Brain

The thing is, even though your brain cells aren’t murdered by you, you do end up damaging nearly 90 million of your neurons (the thingies which are responsible for relaying electrical messages to and from your brain to the rest of your body). Alcohol heavily meddles with the manner in which said information is relayed back and forth from your brain. It affects the amount of information that is communicated between dendrites (the thingies at the end of neurons) which reside in your cerebellum aka the motor coordination center of your brain. This is why when you drink heavily, you show impairment of your motor functions. Alcohol also forces your neurons to create certain steroids which have shown to inhibit the formation of your memories. Think about this 10 times before you ask yourself, “Does alcohol kill brain cells?” Because you shouldn’t stop worrying about alcohol just because it doesn’t kill your brain cells.

Alcohol Can Harm Your Liver

Of course, your symptoms will differ greatly, depending on the area of the brain affected by the alcohol. Oh, and did I forget to mention? Drinking too much is bad for your liver too, which can only take so much of alcohol that you consume. Most people don’t know this, but our liver can only process a very limited amount of drinks - ranging from 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits to 12 ounces of beer per hour. If you’re drinking way above the liver’s processing capacity, the excessive blood is instead released into your bloodstream and is spread throughout your entire body. It remains there, damaging your neurons in the process, till your liver can eventually process it all.

There Is No Such a Thing as “Safe Amount”

Know that even if you’re not a heavy drinker, even light to moderate consumption of alcohol on a daily basis can result in reduced cognitive and motor functions, and in extreme cases, dementia. If you’re an alcoholic, things are obviously way worse for you. And contrary to what we’ve been told about alcohol being good for your heart and all that jazz the truth stands in stark contrast. The research and findings aren’t conclusive, but loads of studies have shown that regular continued consumption of alcohol might do more harm than good for you.

Does alcohol kill brain cells? You already know the answer by now. However, did you know that the worst part about consuming alcohol is that there is no limit that can be said to be ‘safe’ for you. I mean sure, just because your body can ‘handle’ the liquor doesn’t necessarily mean your liver can too. And just because you don’t feel ‘drunk enough’ doesn’t mean your neurons have not been damaged by the alcohol either! Factors that greatly determine the safe amount of liquor you should consume vary greatly according to your race, gender, age, weight, genetics and even medical issues!

Effects of Continued Alcohol Consumption

If we’re talking about short term effects, some of the most common ones are listed below:

  • Severe headaches
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Memory lapses
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased perception and coordination
  • Unconsciousness
  • Anemia (loss of red blood cells)
  • Upset stomach
  • Poor judgment
  • Distorted vision
  • Distorted hearing
  • Slurred speech

If we’re talking about long term effects, some of the most common ones are listed below:

  • Accidents (mostly car crashes due to poor motor functioning and judgment making abilities)
  • Aggressive outbursts that often lead to physically violent behavior
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Nerve damage
  • Permanent damage to the brain
  • Poor health due to malnutrition
  • Gas
  • Performance problems
  • Liver damage (which leads to buildup of toxins in your body, which in turn can lead to liver diseases)
  • High blood pressure
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency (may lead to amnesia)
  • Increased chances of getting mouth, breast, throat or liver cancer
  • Damage to your pancreas (leading to digestive issues)
  • High BP
  • Ulcers
  • Problems with maintaining healthy relationships, both personal and professional

Quitting Alcohol

Now that you know the implications of a question as serious as, “Does alcohol kill brain cells?” the next step for you to work on is quitting:

  • First things first. In order to solve your problem, you need to first acknowledge your problem.
  • Let go of temptation. All those places that you used to visit with your drink buddies? Stop visiting them. And get rid of all bottles from your home.
  • And while you’re at it, get rid of your drinking buddies as well (until and unless they’re 100% supportive of your decision).
  • Let your loved ones know of your decision. They need to know about it so that they can not only help you emotionally, but also to be there whenever you falter. They will also need to know why exactly it is that you’ve reduced your family gatherings and social outings (in order to avoid exposure to alcohol).
  • Faltering is normal, so don’t be too hard on yourself when you do fail.
  • Remind yourself regularly why you’ve chosen to give up drinking. That reason will help you keep pushing on whenever you feel weak.
  • Reward your progress with something that you enjoy – maybe munching on your fav chocolates or gifting yourself a spa weekend (for an alcohol free month, of course).