Alcohol abuse damages the nervous system and destroys brain cells. Different parts of the brain are more sensitive to alcohol than others. Alcohol is a toxin that damages the transmission of nerve impulses in the brain and nervous system. Chronic alcohol abuse causes organic damage that manifests itself both physically, and psychologically and in the behavior of people affected.
Physically it is manifested through loss of balance, impotence and numbness of the feet and hands, tremor and in blindness. Although the medical effects of alcoholism have long been known, the study of how alcohol acts on the brain to produce intoxication, dependence, and tolerance is still new. Most studies focus on the effect of alcohol on cellular communication. These have found that different regions of the brain differ in their sensitivity to alcohol. In addition, alcohol affects many different kinds of receptors and neurotransmitters, such as GABA, glutamate, and serotonin, creating different effects in each case.
Whatever the exact mechanism, it is accepted that chronic consumption of alcohol results in disconnection of the fibers that connect brain cells, producing memory lapses, impaired learning ability, motor disturbances, and general disorientation. Two organic brain disorders, alcoholic dementia, characterized by general loss of intellectual abilities, and Wernicke-Korsakoff’s syndrome, characterized by such symptoms as loss of physical coordination, incoherence are frequently seen in alcoholics. Alcohol abuse also causes a condition called delirium tremens in which the person experiences mental confusion, extreme excitement, anxiety, trembling, rapid pulse and hallucinations.
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