Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A brief summary of the effects of alcohol on the brain.

As I read through the research that created this table, "Alcoholism and the Brain: an Overview," one is reminded that roughly 20 million Americans could likely be classified as alcoholic. With the American population around 320 million right now, and the Canadian population around 35 million, one could hypothesize that we likely have just over 2 million alcoholics in Canada. One could also argue that the percentage of the population that is alcoholic in the USA might be higher due to their relatively cheap costs of attaining alcohol, so Canada could be significantly less.

Regardless, in this article titled "Alcoholism and the Brain," a group of researchers have done a great job of summarizing the effects of that alcohol has "on roughly half of all alcoholics." There are a number of points that I would like to point out after you have a chance to glance over the table (click to enlarge):

  • The point about the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is a really interesting one. The fact that the area of our brain where judgement and decision-making takes place is one of the most affected areas of an alcoholic's brain does make perfect sense. The loss of ability to make decisions regarding time and money, and using judgement to make ethical decisions that the same person would have made prior to being an alcoholic, these are all common scenarios that we have heard of as a result of alcoholism. Interestingly, in adolescents (and individuals in their early 20's) the PFC has not yet fully developed, and research has shown that alcoholism taking place in these periods of an individual's life will inhibit the full development of this area.
  • The right hemisphere is more vulnerable to the effects of alcoholism than the left hemisphere. This statement is noticeably interesting as if a person has a very logical, systemic job, they may be then able to practise alcoholism for years without anyone noticing, whereas an individual who is very reliant upon their left side of the brain, (or both sides), may have a more difficult time keeping their alcoholism a secret. Here's a quick reminder of the generalized roles of the hemispheres of the brain:

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