Although classified as a depressant, the quantity of alcohol consumed determines the its effect. The majority people drink alcohol for its stimulant effect, such as having a beer or glass of wine to "loosen up". But in reality, most people are not aware of the long term effects of alcohol abuse once control over the substance is lost.
While drinking alcohol is itself not necessarily a problem - drinking too much can cause a range of consequences, and increase your risk for a variety of problems.
Alcohol is associated with a host of familiar cognitive changes, such as a loss of inhibitions, confused or abnormal thinking, and poor decision-making.
Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug in the United States, with marijuana occupying second place. Despite the known dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, these statistics clearly reflect that many alcohol users engage in heavy use and binge drinking.
Alcohol's effects on the brain can easily be detected after one or two drinks and often are quickly resolved when the drinking stops. However, those effects go from mild (slowed reaction times, difficulty walking, slurred speech) to severe (impaired memory, memory loss, blacking out).
Those who drinks in large quantities over an extended period of time may develop brain deficits that can last after sobriety is achieved. Alcohol's effects on the brain and the likelihood of reversing the impact of heavy drinking on the brain remain hot topics in alcohol research today.
We do know that there are serious long term effects of alcohol abuse, ranging from simple "slips" in memory to long term, often debilitating conditions requiring lifetime care. Even moderate drinking may have serious repercussions to the health and well-being to the user and those around them, as seen extensively in cases of drunk driving and violent altercations. Abuse of alcohol, or consumption of more alcohol than the body can handle, can lead to liver damage and other debilitating conditions. Alcohol abuse also often leads to alcoholism or alcohol addiction, in which a person becomes physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol to the point that he or she cannot function without it.
Symptoms of alcohol addiction may be overlooked or condoned until the damage becomes obvious. Abuses progresses to addiction when the following signs can be perceived:
These symptoms of alcohol addiction can be early warning signs that abuse is happening, affecting the person's mind, health, social relationships, work and finances, and life in general. When a person begins to lose control of their drinking, the spiral effect can often end in health problems, jail time, and even death.
Long term effects of alcohol abuse causes damage to brain cells, which can lead to mental disorders and a lowered level of psychological or physical function.
Liver damage from alcohol can result in cirrhosis, a severe medical condition that can require a liver transplant to treat, and pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation of the pancreas, and can also lead to permanent nerve damage.
Over time, the alcohol's effects on the brain can can be permanent, causing short-term memory problems and even dementia. Other long-term psychological effects can include depression, mood swings, anger, and delusional thinking.
When the abuse has turned into an addiction, medical treatment is needed to overcome the problem. This process is known as detoxification (commonly referred to as detox) and it is followed by outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation and therapy to help patients avoid future abuse.