Alcohol Affects Brain Function: Alcoholism Results in Brain Disease

Once alcohol is consumed it quickly starts the absorption process. This rapid absorption is based on alcohol’s chemical properties; being both soluble in water and in fat. This allows the alcohol accessibility to nearly all body compartments.

More than two-thirds of the consumed alcohol is metabolized in the liver but not before it has made it rounds. It only takes a minute amount of alcohol to affect brain function. The alcohol which quickly crosses the brain blood barrier acts on the synapses of important neurotransmitters, for example the alcohol interferes with different neurological pathways such as the dopamine turnover and reward system.

Constant Alcohol Abuse Can Lead to Neuro-Adaptability and Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol also affects the brain’s neurons; altering the related membranes, enzymes and receptors. In some cases the alcohol binds directly to receptors such as the serotonin and GABA receptors resulting in the receptor’s diminished functions Alcohol also interacts with dopamine receptors increasing the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a part of the pleasure reward system. If alcohol is abused then the neurons will adapt and start relying on the alcohol as a trigger for response, overlooking the body’s normal triggers. This adaptability creates alcohol dependence. Alcohol dependence is also commonly referred to as alcohol addiction.

Alcohol Addiction as a Disease

Alcohol dependent individuals have been unfortunately mislabeled as social misfits but research is being to show that alcoholism is a disease. What makes alcoholism a disease is the alcohol’s ability to change the way that the brain functions; either temporarily or permanently. Alcohol initially causes the release of dopamine which in turn causes the individual to feel good. However, after continuous drinking and continuous elevated dopamine release the brain is incapable of releasing the same levels of dopamine on its own and relies on the alcohol. Without alcohol the individual feels depressed because of the lack of dopamine.

Alcohol Dependence and Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is commonly a result of an individual’s lifestyle choices. People that are obese and lack physical activity are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. One can say that a person’s behavior is partially responsible for the disease. There is however, no negative stigma attached to type 2 diabetes and type 2 diabetics seek treatment for their condition. This is quite unlike people with alcohol dependence who find their condition wrought in negativity; the common tendency is to hide the disease and not seek treatment.

Drugs Used to Treat Alcohol Dependence

The actual pharmacology of Nalterxone in treating alcohol dependence is not completely understood. It is suspected that nalterxone acts on the dopamine pathway somehow reducing the pleasure reward one feels from consuming alcohol which in turn reduces an individual’s desire for alcohol. Nalterxone is not a deterrent drug (causing nausea and sickness when alcohol is consumed).

Medicating an alcoholic may seem counterproductive but just like an individual managing their type 2 diabetes disease needs medication to manage their disease, so do some alcoholics. Medications are not the only solution to treating alcoholism, alcohol dependents need to also make lifestyle changes. The AA 12 step program is a good program that manages the psychosocial causes of the disease.


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