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The Effects of Alcohol on Your Brain | Affinity Health

Affinity Health is a leading provider of high-quality healthcare. Here are their views on the effects of alcohol on the brain.


The human brain is remarkable. It has the following attributes:
  • Over 86 billion neurons.
  • 5 million terabytes of storage.
  • Over 50,000 thoughts every day.


There is still a great deal about the brain that doctors and scientists have yet to know. Doctors are learning more about this fascinating organ every day. The latest research to hit news headlines is the effects of light-to-moderate alcohol consumption on brain cells.

What Does Alcohol Do to Your Brain?

It’s a well-known fact that alcohol dramatically affects the brain’s intricate structures. It interferes with chemical impulses between brain cells (neurons). This results in the most typical acute symptoms:

  • Intoxication
  • Impulsive behaviour
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired memory
  • Slower reflexes


If heavy drinking continues for an extended time, the brain adjusts. It adapts to intoxication more powerfully by triggering particular brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters). After alcohol is out of the system, the brain continues to over-activate neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters can lead to uncomfortable and sometimes hazardous withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can result in brain cell destruction.

Binge drinking and abrupt abstinence exacerbate the harm done. Neurons connect the pathways linking various brain areas. So, when they degenerate, they can slow down these channels. Along with route damage, heavy alcohol consumption harms the brain itself.

Did you know that alcoholics frequently undergo “brain shrinkage”? Brain shrinkage is a gradual decrease in the volume of grey matter (cell bodies) and white matter (cell pathways). There are slight distinctions in how men and women experience brain damage. Irrespective of gender, losing brain cells increases with age and alcohol consumption.

What is the Latest Research on Alcohol and the Brain?

According to Nature Communications, even small amounts of alcohol can harm the brain. Small amounts of alcohol include a few beers or glasses of wine a week. Analysis of data from more than 36 000 adults found that people who drank light to moderate amounts of alcohol had smaller brains.


The researchers said the more alcohol you drink, the worse the damage. They discovered that there are changes to the brain when people drink more alcohol.

Is it Possible for the Effects Of Alcohol Abuse Be Reversed?

It is less understood whether excessive drinking can cause long-term brain damage. The question remains, what happens to the recovering alcoholics? Is it possible to undo the damage caused by binge drinking?

“The good news is that the brain can heal in most people,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.


Hewlett continues to say that many studies have demonstrated that abstinence is effective. It can cure a significant part of the physical and cognitive damage. As a result, substance-dependent individuals must get help as soon as possible.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies visualise and quantify tissue damage. They can also show improvement throughout the brain. These MRI investigations have demonstrated that two weeks of abstinence heals grey matter.

Scientists found that former alcoholics who abstained had more brain tissue. The increased brain tissue implies that relapsing into heavy alcohol use reverses the effects of abstinence.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of affordable medical insurance. Members enjoy access to a network of healthcare providers. We have designed healthcare products to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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