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    1. #11
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      Neurotransmitter effects

      Your brain on alcohol

      Does anyone remember the ?this is your brain ? this is your brain on drugs? commercials from the 1980s? Bold messaging and memorable imagery combined to create an idea that is still sticky today.

      Is the brain fried like an egg in a pan? Are there lasting effects after the hangover? Are we really killing brain cells with every beer?

      Alcohol makes cells less likely to work. The drug ethanol causes the cells to be less responsive to neighboring cells. It is a sedative. But wait, there?s more.


      Before the cocktails even go to your head they have to get past your guts. In fact, the lining of the mouth absorbs some alcohol, but most of it reaches the blood stream via the stomach or intestine. Alcohol is locally toxic to cells by chasing out water. It is processed in the liver where more chemical burning takes place.

      At high enough concentrations alcohol can overwhelm the liver?s ability to keep up. The large organ under your right ribcage is charged with clearing the stuff. It does a magnificent job, up to a point.

      First the cells of the liver swell. Later they accumulate fat. Eventually they die and are replaced by scar tissue. This process is called cirrhosis. You don?t want to let things get this far because the there is no way to reverse cirrhosis.


      The only reason I ever drank alcohol was for the effect on my brain. From pleasantly buzzed to completely wasted the action was all happening between my ears. This is where the addiction specialists get the idea that this is a ?brain disease.? Where else would it be taking place?

      Cells communicate with their neighbors. They use a delicate combination of electricity and chemistry. Alcohol is a crappy drug. Very imprecise. It interferes with messages being passed from neuron to neuron in an unpredictable way.

      Initially the alcohol suppresses the little voice inside your head that says, ?don?t do that.?

      ? Don?t tell that joke.

      ? Don?t flirt with that person.

      ? Don?t get out there and dance the electric boogaloo.

      For a little while you feel calm and brave. The thoughts do not change that much but they won?t bother you so much.

      With a few more drinks the brain is suppressed altogether and the sedative effects become more general.


      If you keep drinking and manage to stay awake other strange things happen. You can be conscious but not remember what you did. The blackout is failure of your brain to convert short-term memories into long ones. You are doing things but can?t recall them later. Embarrassment and/or terror dawn later as you reassemble the pieces.

      With very high or chronic moderate exposure to alcohol even worse things happen to your brain.

      The cells can only take so much before they give out[i].

      It's in here somewhere


      Yes. You do kill brain cells when you drink alcohol and no, not just the weak ones. Alcohol has direct effects on the cells themselves, especially on their connections to other cells. The brain scans of long-term heavy drinkers make me sad when I see them.

      The thin watery fluid in which the organ usually floats replaces healthy brain tissue. Those cells are gone baby, gone.

      If you smoke cigarettes the whole brain-dissolving shuffle goes even faster[ii].


      The good news is your brain can take a joke ? to a point. Time was science thought that there was no new cells created in the brain once you were born. We now know that not only do new cells form but also they form in two ways.

      Stem cells float around in the bloodstream and land in the brain. They are coaxed to transform into brain cells. The neighbors do the rest, hooking up the connections.

      More bizarrely, the non-neurons can be changed into nerve cells. That?s right. Supporting cells can change into information-carrying cells. It is like wood and plaster in your house morphing into the phone wires and TV cables in the walls. Not kidding.


      It is clear that alcohol hurts the brain. It is also clear that up to a point the cells will recover just fine from the alcohol toxicity. The problem comes when you use the drink to deal with your thoughts a little too often.

      Alcohol works to change your thoughts. That?s the point of drinking it. Don?t be surprised when one of your new thoughts is ?let?s have another drink!?

      If you have a strong feeling that you are not okay or that others have something that you don?t then drinking can give you a dramatic sense of relief. The allure of the alcoholic drink can become very powerful. Many of my patients describe the feeling of the first drink as magical. All of the anxiety is washed away in a few swallows.

      This is the real risk. Sure, if you drink a lot for a long time you will get brain damage. The trouble is this happens slowly. Insidiously.


      Hitting a ?bottom? is when your life gets worse faster than you can lower your standards. Each time you drink to get away from yourself you get a little worse and feel a little lower.

      Part of why it is so hard to recover is the detox from alcohol. Alcohol suppresses the nerve activity and the nerves try to overcome the sedation. When you stop drinking the now hyperactive nerves are jumpy and irritable. Too sensitive.

      The real challenge is dealing with all the feelings and fears that have never really been processed. The problem is only alcohol while you are drinking it or recovering from drinking it. The actual trouble is what you think about yourself and the world around you.

      The only thing wrong with you is that you think there is something wrong with you.

      Your Brain on Alcohol : Haywire

    2. #12
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      Neurotransmitter effects

      Consequences of Intoxication on Brain Structure & Function

      Consequences of Intoxication on Brain Structure & Function

      Structural damage to the brain resulting from chronic alcohol abuse can be observed in different ways:Results of autopsy show that patients with a history of chronic alcohol abuse have smaller, less massive, and more shrunken brains than nonalcoholic adults of the same age and gender.1

      The findings of brain imaging techniques, such as CT scans consistently show an association between heavy drinking and physical brain damage, even in the absence of chronic liver disease or dementia.

      Brain shrinking is especially extensive in the cortex of the frontal lobe2 - the location of higher cognitive faculties.

      The vulnerability to this frontal lobe shrinkage increases with age.3 After 40 some of the changes my be irreversible [see below].

      Repeated imaging of a group of alcoholics who continued drinking over a 5-year period showed progressive brain shrinkage that significantly exceeded normal age-related shrinkage. Moreover, the rate of shrinkage correlated with the amount of alcohol consumed.

      The relationship between alcohol consumption and deterioration in brain structure and function is not simple. Measures such as average quantity consumed, or even total quantity consumed over a year, do not predict the ultimate extent of brain damage.

      The best predictor of alcohol related impairment is: maximum quantity consumed at one time, along with the frequency of drinking that quantity. In addition to the toxic effects of frequent high levels of alcohol intake, alcohol related diseases and head injuries (due to falls, fights, motor vehicle accidents, etc.) also contribute.

      Although changes in brain structure may be gradual, performance deficits appear abruptly. The individual often appears more capable than is actually the case, because existing verbal abilities are among the few faculties that are relatively unimpaired by chronic alcohol abuse.
      The Pattern of Recovery

      Despite the grim realities described above, the situation is not hopeless: With abstinence there is functional and structural recovery! Predictably cognitive functions and motor coordination improve, at least partially, within 3 or 4 weeks of abstinence; cerebral atrophy reverses after the first few months of sobriety.5

      Indications of structural pathology often disappear completely with long-term abstinence.6

      Hyper-excitability of the central nervous system persists during the first several months of sobriety and then normalizes.7

      Frontal lobe blood flow continues to increase with abstinence, returning to approximately normal levels within 4 years.8

      In general, skills that require novel, complex, and rapid information processing take longest to recover. New verbal learning is among the first to recover. Visual-spatial abilities, abstraction, problem solving, and short-term memory, are the slowest to recover. There may be persistent impairment in these domains, particularly among older alcoholics [over 40]. However, even this population may show considerable recovery with prolonged abstinence.9

      Withdrawal symptoms are themselves dangerous.

      About 15% of alcoholics experience seizures during withdrawals, and the likelihood of having such seizures, as well as their severity, increases with the number of past withdrawal episodes. The seizures are correlated with shrinkage of both frontal lobes, but it is not known whether the seizures are a cause or an effect of the structural changes.10 Next page >>


      Alcohol and Brain

    3. #13
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      Neurotransmitter effects

      About Neurotransmitters...simple article

      How Neurotransmitters Affect our Physical and Emotional Well-Being

      Has anyone ever told you how electrifying you are? Well, they may not be that far from the truth! Every aspect of our being is interconnected by a communication system compromised of neurons (nerve cells), which communicate with each other via electrical impulses and chemicals known as neurotransmitters. The chemical firing that controls our body begins when a neuron creates an electrical discharge that moves down its length. At the far end of the neuron, the electrical pulse stimulates the nerve ending to release chemicals known as neurotransmitters. These messenger chemicals travel through a calcium channel known as a synapse to the next nerve. There, they bind to receptor sites, which either stimulate or inhibit the next nerve from firing another electrical impulse.

      The discovery of neurotransmitters has greatly altered our understanding of mental illnesses and other disorders of the brain. We now know that sleep; mood, appetite and behavior are influenced by the different types of transmitter chemicals being released in our brain. Depression, addiction, mania, schizophrenia, Alzheimer?s disease, Parkinson's disease and ADHD are some of the major disorders now known to involve imbalances in neurotransmitters. Understanding these chemical messengers has also given us new insights into how nutrition and herbs affect both our mind and our body. So, in this issue we shall introduce the major neurotransmitters and discuss some of the herbs, supplements and natural therapies that can help them to work properly.

      Continued with description of each function:


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