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How Even Moderate Drinking May Negatively Affect Your Brain

How Even Moderate Drinking May Negatively Affect Your Brain

Many people believe they can engage in moderate drinking without much risk to their brain health, especially since alcohol is often presented as having some health benefits. However, reports of the advantages of moderate drinking may well have been exaggerated. Alcohol is a powerful toxin, and every bit of booze you drink has a profound effect on the brain.

How Alcohol Works In The Brain

Alcohol disturbs normal brain function by interfering with neurotransmitters. These powerful brain chemicals relay signals between nerve cells, allowing your body to function optimally. Neurotransmitters have an important role in regulating mood, movement, thinking, vital bodily processes, and behavior.

You only have to look at the slurred speech, difficulty balancing, and mood swings of a drunk person to see the evidence that alcohol affects your brain. While you may think moderate drinking doesn’t do any damage, science may suggest otherwise.

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“But I’m Dot Nrunk!”

If you’re not slurring or swaying down street, it is tempting to deny the impact of alcohol on your brain. You may think you have learned to ‘hold your liquor’ if you’ve built up a tolerance to alcohol through moderate drinking.

It is true that regular drinkers may feel less drunk and incapacitated after a tipple. But research shows that drinking moderately still has an impact on judgment and brain performance — without drinkers being aware of it.

A 2013 study, carried out by the University of Waikato in New Zealand, measured driving performance at various periods of time after drinking alcohol, as well as participants’ subjective experience of how drunk they felt.

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As testing went on, volunteers reported feeling like the effects of alcohol were wearing off, yet their driving and cognitive performance was significantly worse than before. This effect was shown with even a moderate level of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05.

Some Sobering Studies

Studies of adolescents have shown that brain structure and function can be compromised by drinking as few as 20 drinks per month, with important brain networks affected.

Moderate drinking and building tolerance are no safeguards against damage to perception, cognition and judgment. A 2008 review published in “Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology revealed that while you can learn to think more quickly as your tolerance builds up, you are just as likely, if not more likely, to make alcohol-related mistakes.

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Further evidence shows that people who are mildly tolerant to alcohol may cope with tasks learned while intoxicated, but can be completely confused when faced with unfamiliar tasks. Just because you feel confident getting home safely from your regular bar, don’t expect to be as competent if you have a drink elsewhere.

Long-Term Effects Of Moderate Drinking

Drinking alcohol can inhibit the production of new brain cells, according to a study published in “Neuroscience” in 2012. Lab rats exposed to moderate amounts of alcohol every day produced 40 percent fewer brain cells than a control group of teetotal rats over a two-week period.

Researchers at Rutgers University and the University of Jyvaskyla discovered the anomaly in a region of the brain associated with learning and memory. The worry is that these rats showed no impaired motor responses in the short term, highlighting the risk of moderate drinkers not taking the impact of alcohol seriously.

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The researchers indicated the need for more studies to show whether moderate drinking could have an adverse effect on learning and memory in the long term.

The Myth Of Moderation

The media often quotes statistics to ‘prove’ that people who drink moderately live longer and have healthier hearts than those who abstain, but these results could easily be interpreted differently.

Rather than alcohol (known to be a toxin) conferring some kind of miraculous health benefits, it is just as likely that people who choose to drink moderately tend to be relaxed, sociable people with healthy, balanced lifestyles — which will make you live longer.

Learning how to find balance, relax, and manage stress is more effective at protecting your health than moderate drinking. Developing your inner resources and strength is always better than relying on a bottle for stress relief or relaxation.

Featured photo credit: Dustin Gaffke via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 6, 2020

6 Signs It’s Time to Change Your Life

6 Signs It’s Time to Change Your Life

Is it time to make some changes in your life? It just might be. Life is too short to not live it to the fullest.

Here are some signs it’s time to change your life.

1. Every week, you cannot wait for Friday.

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    Fridays are fun, but one thing I’ve discovered in my quest to find and do work I absolutely love is that almost every day can be really fun. If you’re saving all your living for the weekends, it’s time to truly think about your lifestyle and consider making some changes. Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to have plans you look forward to on the weekends, but what if you could have that excited Friday feeling most, if not all, days of the week? It takes a lot of self-discovery and work, but it’s truly possible to live a life you love—even on Mondays.

    2. You live for your vacations.

    Vacations are great, but what’s even better is building a life you don’t need to take a vacation from. As Seth Godin said, “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” Vacations are fun and exciting, but even better is building a life where you have the potential to do what lights you up many weeks of the year, not just your two allotted vacation weeks.

    3. When you stop and think about it, you’re really not focusing your life on your priorities.

    Write down your 3 top priorities. Then write down the 3 things you focus most of your life on. Are you spending your time living your top priorities? Consistently spending time doing what matters most to you is one of the keys to feeling fulfilled in your life. If you’re not focusing your life on what’s important to you, it’s time to make some changes.

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    4. You have no idea what lights you up, and you don’t have the space in your life to discover it.

    If you haven’t found your passion in your current life, you’re not going to find it if you continue to do your same routine, over and over, year after year. In order to discover what lights you up, start by creating the space in your life to seek it. Give yourself time to figure out who you are, what your strengths are, and what picques your interest. Experiment with learning new things, spending time with inspiring people, and doing more of what excites you and less of the things that suck your energy.

    5. You’re frequently jealous.

    If you find yourself frequently feeling jealous of someone, there are 3 changes to consider making:

    1. Make a point to focus on your path instead of his or her journey. Sometimes this involves taking a break from social media.
    2. Get inspired from the person you’re jealous of, and work toward a similar goal in your life.
    3. Decide what the other person has is not something you are willing to put in the effort to achieve, so you’ll cheer him or her on but choose to not be jealous.

    When you are feeling jealous, consider why you want what the other person has, and what your motives are. Living a life on your terms, focused on your priorities, passions, and strengths, will provide you with much more fulfillment than trying to be somebody else.

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    6. You can’t remember the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone.

    According to Neale Donald Walsch, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Your life can become even more amazing if you stretch beyond your comfort zone. If you’re not sure where to start, try the tips in this article about small ways to step out of your comfort zone.

    Life is too short to spend your years not living to your full potential. If you decide you’re ready to change your life, I encourage you to start taking small action steps toward the life you want to live. Keep moving forward.

    Check out this video if you’re ready to make a change in life:

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    Featured photo credit: Lauren McKinnon/https://flickr.com via flickr.com

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