This about it, what does someone experience when they’re drunk? Slurred speech, blurred vision, poor memory, slowed reaction, difficulty walking, and impaired judgement. Obviously, alcohol has an affect on the brain. And clearly, not a positive one. Heavy drinking can also result in more severe brain deficits that persists even after a person has reached sobriety.

So what is alcohol’s effect on the brain?

For starters, drugs are either a stimulant or a depressant. Stimulants may influence dopamine or norepinephrine. Depressants target a chemical called GABA, the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter within the brain. It’s said that alcohol is a depressant, but people may say, “I feel like my mood increases and I’m more outgoing and energetic when I drink. How does that make it a depressant?” Well, when our Blood Alcohol Content increases, we feel that boost and impulsiveness associated with stimulants. But once it goes up, it comes back down, and that’s when we feel the later effects of depression, fatigue, or confusion. So perhaps alcohol is more than just a depressant.

So basically, alcohol ends up disrupting brain chemistry by alternating levels of neurotransmitters. And while sparing you the scientific lingo, that in itself can explain how we have poor memory or impaired judgement when drinking. Our brains just don’t process things as it usually does. Those who drink excessively are at risk for more serious brain damage, since alcohol is constantly interfering with proper functioning. At some point, parts or processes of the brain sort of give up, resulting in brain damage.

Here are some other factors that influence how alcohol affects the brain:

  • how much and how often a person drinks;
  • the age at which he or she first began drinking, and how long he or she has been drinking;
  • the person’s age, level of education, gender, genetic background, and family history of alcoholism;
  • whether he or she is at risk as a result of prenatal alcohol exposure; and
  • his or her general health status.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact Crownview Medical Group and make an appointment with a trained medical professional, specializing in addiction treatments and case management.



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What Happens To Your Brain When You Get Black-Out Drunk. (2013, February 22). Gizmodo. Retrieved September 20, 2014, from

Your brain on alcohol. (2010, June 18). Psychology Today. Retrieved September 20, 2014, from