Alcohol’s Effects on the Brain

By James Madeiros


This is Your Brain on Booze

Say no to the Pinot! Save your brain cells!

You’ve heard the hype. Drinking kills brain cells. Can’t remember how to calculate the circumference of a soda can? Blame it on that “one more glass” of chardonnay you had with dinner last night. And, thanks to that wild night in Tijuana at your friend’s bachelor party, you won’t be able to help your daughter pass Algebra.

Not (necessarily) true.

Alcohol does not kill brain cells. But, that’s not to say alcohol has no detrimental effect on the brain whatsoever. The brain is without doubt the most complex organ known to science, and one of the most delicate. To say that alcohol has no impact on such a sensitive instrument would reenergize the brain cell death debate, to say the least.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which is brought on by a thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency often attributed to alcoholism, can cause serious damage to the brain, particularly in the area of memory. Loss of motor coordination and hallucinations are also symptoms, and are a result of a lack of thiamine.

This is obviously a very critical condition, and not a threat to the moderate, responsible drinker. But, it can serve as a cautionary tale, and a reminder of the sensitivity of the tangle of gray matter that makes us matter.

Think of your brain as a well-used, but very nice car. Just because it has airbags, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to crash it every weekend.


Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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