If you or someone you love is suffering from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), it is beneficial to learn more about what alcohol does to the brain, the long-term effects of alcoholism, and how to find support to get sober. It is also worthwhile to learn how to heal the brain after alcoholism.
Alcohol’s Effects on the Brain
Alcohol is a sedative that affects the neurons that communicate with the brain’s central nervous system. The short-term effects of alcohol on the brain include:
- Slurred Speech
- Coordination Problems
- Impulsive Decision Making
- Engaging in Risky Behaviors
- Cravings for Alcohol
- Blackouts and Memory Impairment
- Alcohol Poisoning
Drinking to become intoxicated can trigger these short-term effects.
Continued misuse of alcohol regularly affects the brain and central nervous system. Some of the more common long-term effects include:
- Impaired Cognitive Functioning
- Short-Term Memory Loss
- Neurotransmitter Damage
- Brain Shrinkage
- More Frequent Blackouts
- Brain Damage
- Wet Brain Syndrome (also known as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome)
- Alcohol Overdose
Alcohol’s Effect on Dopamine
Another side effect of alcohol on the brain is that it forces the brain to increase its dopamine release. Dopamine is a natural endorphin that affects our mood and makes us feel pleasure. With higher dopamine levels, our inhibitions are lowered, and we feel relaxed and happy.
This increase in dopamine levels reinforces the consumption of alcohol and creates cravings. However, when the effects of alcohol wear off, dopamine levels drop much lower than normal. As a result, one may feel sad and depressed. Unfortunately, the longer alcohol is misused, the more one must consume to maintain high dopamine levels in order to function.
Brain Damage from Long-Term Alcohol Misuse
The extent of brain damage from long-term alcohol misuse can lead to permanent, irreversible damage. Stage two wet brain syndrome is an example of this sort of damage. However, when alcohol use disorder is treated sooner rather than later, the damage to the brain can be reversed.
For example, within a few weeks of sobriety, brain shrinkage stops and the brain begins healing itself, even reversing the shrinkage. Other parts of the brain also start to heal and repair the damages caused by alcohol as follows:
- Neurotransmitters. The brain can create new neurotransmitters and neural pathways, restoring the damage caused by alcohol abuse.
- Cognitive Functioning. The part of the brain responsible for decision-making and problem-solving gradually repairs and restores itself.
- Memory Problems. The part of the brain responsible for memory slowly heals itself and return to normal functioning. This allows for short-term memories to be transferred to long-term memory.
Brain Damage from Wet Brain Syndrome
Wet brain syndrome progresses through two stages. Therefore, the sooner one can begin alcohol addiction treatment, the better.
All brain damage caused by stage one wet brain syndrome is fully reversible. However, brain damage is only partially reversible once it reaches the second stage. Unfortunately, young men can be left with permanent brain damage where they continue to experience memory problems and cognitive functioning problems. However, with ongoing treatment and complete abstinence from alcohol, it is possible to manage the condition to prevent it from worsening.
How to Heal the Brain After Alcoholism
The first step to healing the brain after alcoholism is to undergo medically supervised detox. This is followed by the completion of an addiction treatment program. While it’s not without its challenges, getting sober helps the body and brain begin to repair itself after the damage caused by addiction.
You can take steps yourself to further promote the healing processes, such as:
- Eating a healthy, nutritious, and well-balanced diet. Part of your diet should include lean meats or other protein-rich foods, as well as plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Getting plenty of rest each night. Sleep works wonders for the body and brain, including the promotion of healing. It is therefore important that you strive to get around eight hours of restful sleep.
- Getting sufficient exercise. When you exercise, it helps the body produce and release endorphins naturally that can help repair brain damage caused by drinking. It also helps restore depleted dopamine levels.
- Taking vitamin and nutritional supplements daily. You can help ensure the body gets the right amount of essential vitamins and nutrients it needs to heal the brain.
- Having a plan in place to deal with cravings and reduce the risk of relapse. It is vital to be prepared for cravings and know what to do when you experience them so that you do not give in and stat drinking again.
- Moving into a sober living home for young men. Maintaining your sobriety can be challenging in the early stages of recovery. Sober living homes provide a safe and secure environment for you to maintain your sobriety and grow more comfortable in your new, sober lifestyle.
Maintain Sobriety at a Young Men’s Sober Living Homes in Los Angeles
Now that you know how to heal the brain after alcoholism, we are confident you can take the first steps in recovery. Once you complete your detox and initial alcohol addiction treatment program, you can continue to get the support you need at New Life House in the Los Angeles area.
We provide access to several sober living homes for young men to continue to heal after alcohol abuse. Our residents can stay in our homes for as long as they need to. They enjoy access to aftercare and outpatient programs, support groups, and educational and career opportunities. For more information or to become a resident at one of our sober living homes, contact us today.