Would you like to know how alcohol affects your spouse’s brain?
Why do they do it?
Bob had difficulty walking from the bar to his car. His vision was blurred and when he spoke his speech was slurred. He forgot where he parked after being in the bar for 5 hours. He’d brag to his friends that when he’d find the car, he could drive better drunk than when he was sober.
Distorted thinking and impaired behavior becomes exacerbated.
As with Bob, after an evening of heavy drinking you’d see impairments such as difficulty walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reaction times, and impaired memory, however, even mild to moderate drinking can adversely affect cognitive functioning. Heavy drinking may have extensive effects on the brain – ranging from simple slips of memory to permanent and debilitating conditions. Exactly how alcohol affects the brain and possibilities of reversing its impact on the brain are hot topics in alcohol research today.
What’s most common?
In adults, the most prevalent brain impairments caused from alcohol are:
- Visuospatial abilities (perceiving and remembering the relative location of objects in a 2 and 3 dimensional space. Examples: blurred vision, difficulty walking, parallel parking or driving a car).
- Higher cognitive functioning (abstract thinking capabilities needed to organize a plan, carry it out, and modify it when needed. Examples: Planning to just have 2 drinks, but 2 leads to more, not planning how they’ll get home before becoming drunk, or not following through with plan).
- Prefrontal Cortex malfunctions: inability to objectively assess oneself, poor judgment, inbility to learn from experience, decreased attention span, becoming easily bored, argumentative, thin skinned, self-centered, and disorganized.
Factors that determine how and to what extent alcohol affects the brain:
- How much and how often a person drinks.
- The age at which he/she first began drinking and for how long.
- The person’s age, level of education, gender, genetic background, and family history.
- His/her general health status.
What about Bob?
The story of Bob is a compilation of many drinkers. Generally, they don’t see a problem with their drinking until someone outside of them confronts them about it. They don’t like being confronted. Often it’s the legal system that does the confronting. Some understand it as a wake-up call, too often others become angry and blame, as it’s easier to blame others than to take responsibility for their drinking. Rarely does the impact of alcohol on their brain concern them. But, since you’re in relationship and interacting with them, the impact drinking has on the brain needs to be understood by you.
How to keep your family safe:
- Do realize that even after a drink or two the brain is being affected.
- Do realize that alcohol impairs well before the drinker may perceive they are being impaired.
- Do realize that the more drinking over a longer period of time increases the risk of permanent damage to the brain.
- Don’t try talking with the drinker about his/her drinking after they have been drinking.
- Don’t expect the drinker will be consistent with doing what they say about their drinking.
- Do talk with a professional to assist you in coming up with a custom safety plan for you and your family.