What is the effect of Alcoholism on the nervous system ?


Dr. Avinash K. N

An overdose of alcohol is one of the major health problems worldwide, which has resulted in extensive patient’s admissions across hospitals. December being the party season, there are few things that one must keep in mind about Alcoholism and its effects on the nervous system.

Everything in moderation is always safe for everyone, especially during the intake of alcohol.They can be divided into three categories: acute intoxication, chronic usage, and withdrawal.  People who gulp down excessive alcohol experience:

·         Impaired vision

·         Impaired hearing

·         Liver infections

·         Cardio-vascular diseases

·         Diabetic complications

Alcohol at times acts as one of the best antidepressant on the brain and other nerve tissue, which makes people enjoy a momentary high and happiness. In general, alcohol slows down the performance of nerve cells which in a sense gives the feeling of joy, ecstasy, loss or being reticent. It is not the stimulation of the brain; rather it shuts down some of the areas in the brain which generally control our reasoning capabilities, judgment, and instincts. This sharp anti-depressant effect is the reason for the alcohol-related accidents on the road. When our judgments are impaired, everything takes place slowly resulting in slowed reaction time, impaired vision as well as decreased coordination with our brain makes driving and drinking a deadly combination.

The coordination and balance in the brain are done by the inner ear and cerebellum, which can be affected by alcohol producing difficulty with walking, body coordination and even reaction time. People tend to think that a drink can help them sleep peacefully at night and a small amount of alcohol can initially be sedating but overall it disrupts sleep and sometimes the sleep is even more fragmented. In addition to that, it might cause nightmares and restlessness and can lead to as can sleep apnea.

Chronic alcoholism reflects in “cytotoxic” or known as cell poisoning effect. Alcohol itself can cause damage, still, there are various other factors adding negative effects to it. Vitamin deficiencies, head injuries, memory loss are to name a few.

Alcohol causes major damage to the nervous of feet and legs, which is known as peripheral neuropathy. The absence of sensation is produced, leading to unsteadiness, where one experiences numbness, pain, burning and tingling. Around 50% of the alcoholics have the problem of muscles. Due to this chronic alcohol abuse, a large damage is caused to the muscles. A person finds difficulty in climbing the stairs, getting off a chair, or getting up from the floor because of the painless weakness caused in the large muscles of the upper legs and pelvic area.

Alcohol consumed in a responsible fashion can be relishing, but at the same time, alcohol is a drug with potential side effects and complications just like any other drug. But it still stands different from many other drugs, because it’s accessible without any prescription and its effects last for a very long time.

About the author: Dr. Avinash K. N is currently working as Consultant- Neuro Surgeon at Columbia Asia Hospital, Hebbal.


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