Home MENTAL HEALTH Understanding the relationship between Alcohol And Mental Health

Understanding the relationship between Alcohol And Mental Health

Alcohol And Mental Health

Many are familiar with the adverse physical effects like liver damage, cancer, heart diseases or other such chronic conditions that are associated with extreme alcohol abuse. However, the adverse psychological effects are not known by many.

People often believe that alcohol only has temporary satisfactory effects on mental health i.e, it helps reduce stress levels and thus relax/ calm the person; although, a number of permanent deficits have been observed consistently in excessive drinkers.


Brain under the influence of alcohol, even in a slightly elevated level, impairs cognitive functions which, overtime becomes a permanent shortfall.

Initially, drinking causes a person to lose consciousness, have a blurry vision and an impaired speech thus making irrational and inappropriate decisions that may reflect badly on the person.

Around 3.5% of the suicidal cases round the globe were found to be a prey to alcoholism or to the unreasonable actions that were carried out under the influence of alcohol.

According to a study conducted, approximately 13 people per day die due to car / road accidents where either the person driving, or a pedestrian or both were not alert and responsive due to the high levels of alcohol found in the blood.

Cases have also been reported wherein, alcoholism has caused breathlessness however, as the persons consuming alcohol are unaware and inattentive, the respiratory pathway collapses while the person is in sleep thus leading to fatality.

Hypoglycaemia ( heavy use of alcohol brings down blood sugar levels dangerously ) is another common immediate symptom which if left untreated, can lead to permanent brain damage, comatose or in rare cases even death.


Over a period of time, the continuous supply of alcohol to the brain may cause permanent damage to various motor and cognitive functions. Starting with anxiety, impaired brain development, decreased memory capacity/ retention capacity, depression sometimes even leading to loss of life.

Anxiety and depression usually come hand in hand. Frequent drinkers usually tend to start getting anxious and worried that drives them to increase the intake to their alcohol consumptions significantly; such increases makes a person develop tolerance to low doses of alcohol thus a person starts frequent drinking which affects thinking capacity and induces forgetfulness and inferiority complex consequently leading to depression that is the most common cause for suicidal deaths all over the world.

Prolonged drinking may not directly cause cell death or cellular damage but studies have revealed that alcoholism may cause neuronal cell death; at times reduce the distance or interfere with the synapses ( gaps present between 2 neurons where electrical and neurotransmitters are present ) therefore relaying wrong or no signals/ messages.

Alcohol And Mental Health


  • Wernicke’s encephalopathy: WKE is a dreadful neurological disorder related with alcoholism that shows initial symptoms of loss of appetite, weight loss, drowsiness, memory loss, etc. however in the long run causes mental confusion, ataxia, rapid back and forth movement of eyes, etc. This illness, is associated with thiamine deficiency caused due to chronic alcoholism that results in brain tissue ischemia and brain cell death.

  • Korsakoff’s psychosis: This disease is the persistent late stage complication of WKE disorder. In around 80% of the affected population, repeated alcohol and drug abuse was said to be the underlying cause. Inability to form new memories, hallucinations, confabulation ( making stories that are not true or never occurred ) are some of the symptoms of Korsakoff’s psychosis.

  • Alcoholic cerebellar degeneration: toxic ataxia is one of the most common types of ACD usually observed in persons of middle age and chronic alcoholic abuse. Herein, permanent deficits are observed in the cerebellum which persist even after alcohol abstinence.

  • Alcoholic neuropathy: hyperalgesia ( abnormally heightened sensitivity to pain ) and allodynia ( experiencing pain from stimuli that is not necessarily a painful stimuli under normal conditions ) are the 2 extreme symptoms observed in patients with this disease that occurs only under the influence of alcohol.

In conclusion, alcohol may for a while help reduce stress and be an escape from reality, however in the long run it can lead to psychotic, behavioural conditions that may drive a person away from his/ her job, family, friends, etc. and ruin a persons life.

Taking a drink occasionally and responsibly while ensuring to stay within the limits ( 12 fluid ounces or 355 ml ) is deemed to be safe.

Whereas over drinking and depending on alcohol is an issue of serious concern both for the person as well as for the social setting and needs to be treated/ attended to at the earliest to avoid further dreadful complications.


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