Moderate Drinking Harms Your Brain

moderate drinking

Most people are aware that alcoholism and binge drinking can kill brain cells, but a new study finds even moderate drinking can be a problem. New research from Rutgers University shows that what moderate drinking and binge drinking have a very negative effect. Both can reduce the production of adult brain cells by as much as 40 percent.

The study’s lead author, Megan Anderson, said that even those who only over indulged on weekends could significantly reduce the structural integrity of the adult brain.

“Moderate drinking can become binge drinking without the person realizing it,” said Anderson. “In the short term there may not be any noticeable motor skills or overall functioning problems, but in the long term this type of behavior could have an adverse effect on learning and memory.”

In their lab tests, the researchers found that rats exposed to an amount of alcohol equivalent to 3 to 4 drinks for women or 5 drinks for men produced 40 percent fewer nerve cells in their hippo campus when compared to non-drinking rats. This is very troubling as the hippo campus makes new neurons and is necessary for some types of new learning.

The truly alarming thing about these new findings is the fact that damage can occur with relatively few drinks. Most people do not see 3 to 5 drinks as binge drinking. Often, they will not even feel drunk or have a hangover. This is because the real damage occurs slowly over a long period of time. Most people will never realize it is happening until it is too late.

“If this area of your brain was affected every day over many months and years, eventually you might not be able to learn how to get somewhere new or to learn something new about your life,” said Anderson, a graduate fellow in the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology. “It’s something that you might not even be aware is occurring.”

While more research is needed to fully understand the long term effects of moderate drinking, it is important that people keep better track of their drinking habits and understand the consequences of their actions.

If you are struggling with your drinking, please click here to find addiction help.

4 Comments

Dhaiyuu - December 22, 2012.

Hi.., I've been aware that I'm an alcoholic for years now.., I had a DUI about 5 years ago and ended up hainvg to go to Diversion , I passed through the diversion honestly basically by drinking a ton of water and not getting drunk for a couple days before the UA but after the meetings I'd head out to my car and go home to a 30 pack and a fifth or half gallon of rum or something ., it's been like 2 years since I've gone even 5 days without drinking and I can't remember how long since I even went 3 whole days without ., when I did stop drinking for 6 days I took paxil during that time to try and calm me down but I don't like paxil because it seems to just make me totally numb and it's a bitch to come down off of when you stop taking it , anyways I haven't been to any AA meetings or anything because actually I have severe anxiety , I am not on medication but I want to get on meds however I'm unemployed and I don't have any health insurance , I have Tourettes Syndrome, OCD, ADHD, and Social Anxiety Disorder and I've basically been self medicating with alcohol but I know Alcohol just makes things worse.., it's a vicious cycle.., I feel freaked out and depressed about a lot of things , I end up hating myself for drinking but that just ends up making me want to go drink more to forget how much I hate myself for drinking ., I think if I could find a steady job that pays anywhere near enough to even live on then I think I could at least cut way back on drinking but I don't know I gotta stop , it's killing me , I mean I've been drinking for about 8 years now.., and it's ruined my life and my reputation , I've made tons of enemies , and besides that I actually had an accident a couple years ago where I shot myself in the foot with a 44 magnum , that's healed up but that happened because I was drunk and I told myself and the doctors that I was never gonna drink again , but as soon as I could bare the pain to hop to the refrigerator on crutches I was I reaching for what was left of a six pack in the fridge , I watched a girl I know almost die and she is dying all because of drinking .., she's got cirrhosis of the liver , and well , My liver lets me know it's in there , i can feel it.. , I've got no insurance and no money but I need to get on medication and I could probably use detox and rehab , I'm not sure what to do If I could just make myself remember the way I feel the day after I do something stupid on alcohol , remember how horrible I felt and how embarrassed and ashamed and how I almost get myself killed or remember how much I freaked out , if all that guilt and freaking out and anger towards myself could just come rushing back whenever I even think about buying a beer then it'd probably help with stopping..

Dhaiyuu - December 22, 2012.

Hi.., I've been aware that I'm an alcoholic for years now.., I had a DUI about 5 years ago and ended up hainvg to go to Diversion , I passed through the diversion honestly basically by drinking a ton of water and not getting drunk for a couple days before the UA but after the meetings I'd head out to my car and go home to a 30 pack and a fifth or half gallon of rum or something ., it's been like 2 years since I've gone even 5 days without drinking and I can't remember how long since I even went 3 whole days without ., when I did stop drinking for 6 days I took paxil during that time to try and calm me down but I don't like paxil because it seems to just make me totally numb and it's a bitch to come down off of when you stop taking it , anyways I haven't been to any AA meetings or anything because actually I have severe anxiety , I am not on medication but I want to get on meds however I'm unemployed and I don't have any health insurance , I have Tourettes Syndrome, OCD, ADHD, and Social Anxiety Disorder and I've basically been self medicating with alcohol but I know Alcohol just makes things worse.., it's a vicious cycle.., I feel freaked out and depressed about a lot of things , I end up hating myself for drinking but that just ends up making me want to go drink more to forget how much I hate myself for drinking ., I think if I could find a steady job that pays anywhere near enough to even live on then I think I could at least cut way back on drinking but I don't know I gotta stop , it's killing me , I mean I've been drinking for about 8 years now.., and it's ruined my life and my reputation , I've made tons of enemies , and besides that I actually had an accident a couple years ago where I shot myself in the foot with a 44 magnum , that's healed up but that happened because I was drunk and I told myself and the doctors that I was never gonna drink again , but as soon as I could bare the pain to hop to the refrigerator on crutches I was I reaching for what was left of a six pack in the fridge , I watched a girl I know almost die and she is dying all because of drinking .., she's got cirrhosis of the liver , and well , My liver lets me know it's in there , i can feel it.. , I've got no insurance and no money but I need to get on medication and I could probably use detox and rehab , I'm not sure what to do If I could just make myself remember the way I feel the day after I do something stupid on alcohol , remember how horrible I felt and how embarrassed and ashamed and how I almost get myself killed or remember how much I freaked out , if all that guilt and freaking out and anger towards myself could just come rushing back whenever I even think about buying a beer then it'd probably help with stopping..

Newnex - January 7, 2013.

It's a shame really that none of these "professionals" have actually responded to your post. I read it & was saddened. I still can't believe that somebody could actually read that & right after that, hop on onto opening a new web-browser tab, in complete ignorance of your situation; without even a shred of tenderness. Well, I couldn't. Unfortunately, am not much of a professional either. What would a Medical student barely done with his first year of study surely offer? Nothing much, but as I said earlier, I couldn't ignore your post so I'll try and give it my best shot. But don't by this because addiction is a phenomenon that many have died trying to make sense of it to no avail. The crème de la crème of brains within the societies, the doctors, can barely figure out whether addiction is a disease or a choice. It's that bad! (No wonder they ignored your post) I spent my holiday researching on drug addiction, mainly from secondary sources. And I'll share with you the little knowledge that I've gained, with the specific drug in mind being "alcohol". Am training to be a medical doctor, so as a hard a concept as addiction maybe, I'll take up the responsibility and tackle it from this point of view: addiction as a disease & not a choice. Many will disagree with me. "But addiction is a choice! You've been told to say NO to drugs but you went on ahead and said YES! It's not like cancer, diabetes where you cannot exercise your constitutional freedom of choice" (this statement assumes that your country exercises this). Well, I won't argue with this. Addiction as I said earlier has baffled many. So, from my point of view, addiction as a disease. Addiction, like any other disease, involves a defect in a particular organ of the body. Unfortunately, when it comes to addiction, it is the most complex organ of them all that is being affected; the brain. Doctors may know everything about the liver, the kidneys but trust me, they only know a fraction of the brain. Consequently, crippling doctor's efforts of treating this very curable disease of the brain: addiction. I'll explain the little science behind it (the one they've been able to figure out so far) in the simplest manner possible. You've probably heard of the brain's reward/pleasure system. When activated, this system reinforces behavior. For example: in the case of a drug addiction, the drug stimulates the brain to receive a reward, in this case a feeling of being high. A bit of more science: Addictive drugs causes a massive release of neurotransmitters (which bring about the sensation of pleasure) in the brain. This feeling of pleasure brings about a habit, a desire in fact, of doing that particular act that brings about that "on top of the world" sensation. The body on the other hand, being highly organized & demanding to always be in a state of balance, will down-regulate the number of receptors for this increased number of neurotransmitters. As a result, an even higher dosage of the drug will be required in order to acquire the pleasurable sensation. Result=addiction! The brain becomes heavily dependent on the drug to be able to experience simple sensations of pleasure. Therefore, on quiting the drug, the brain is no longer sensitive to the neurotransmitters involved in the various aspects of mood. This is where withdrawals set in: depression, anxiety, tremors etc. So simply put, "addiction messes with the biochemicals of the brain" it's not as simple as a case of prom night poor decision-making. It even gets more complicated, as more and more chemicals are being identified as being involved. So treatment to this disease, unlike most others involves the hard and a lot of support, because again, it's the brain here we're talking about. Trying to convince the brain the perceiving, in this case, alcohol as a must for survival. Recovery: Again I insist, you'll need assistance. Be it medical assistance, support groups, psychotherapy because this is unlike all other diseases. This is a disease that has the brain on its side & mind you, the brain controls the rest of the body. So you may just be on your way to a rehabilitation center, after you've decided to put alcohol behind you only for the brain now in cohorts with the disease (for the first time ever), to walk you straight into a bar. Am a huge fan of the TV show The Vampire Diaries (am not sure the case is similar): Klaus, a hybrid vampire-werewolf, relieves werewolves of the pain of having to turn every full moon by making the like him and consequently, they become "sired" to him. Almost like alcohol, an addict is sired to it cause of its calming effect as a sedative. Takes away the withdrawals. Well, the show goes on and for a werewolf to break their "sire bondage" to Klaus, they have to experience the full pain package of turning into a werewolf (the very pain they had been alleviated from by turning into hybrids). And sadly so, to break the addiction, you've to experience the pain of the full moon. That's why I say you'll need plenty of help. With no more exposure to drugs and alcohol, the part of the brain involved in pleasure, motivation and relaxation slowly returns to normal. And as more and more doctors view this as a disease, more and more of them have come up with drugs that abet in quiting alcoholism. Some act by improving the brains sensitivity to the neuro transmitters, some mitigate the withdrawal symptoms. A good example is the drug paraxil that you tried using. Others include: GLA supplementation. All this though should be under the doctor's prescription. Recovery and rehabilitation has become easier as more and more doctors view addiction as a diseases and hopefully more and more drugs will be formulated to combat this. You now know what you have to do if you really want to leave alcoholism behind. You've complained of how you wish your be reminded of how alcoholism has left your life even more miserable right before you're about to have a sip of that drink. Well, here's me reminding you: nothing will change if you remain there hooked. The next 8 years will be as sh*tty as the last 8 (that is assuming liver cirrhosis will have pitied you for that long). Decide! Get help. Trust me, there are rehabilitation centers out there not out for your money which could actually. And as ive told, with doctors figuring out the science behind addiction and slowly coming up with medication, recovery has been made easier. I wish I was old enough and rich enough to have one you'll have been admitted for free and done everything to help you. Decide to LIVE the next 8 years. Fall in love even! I've barely slept writing this, I sure do hope it helps (sorry, barely had time to proof-read). Opening up about your situation waa extraordinary. Many will learn from this. Give back to the society, share with them what you've been through so that they can learn. I also do hope this post helps somebody out there. Blessings, fortune & favour.

alicia - December 20, 2013.

wow so nice to see someone had nice input and advice. I will have 7 years April 6 godwilling. But I remember feeling like a caged animal for two weeks, the anxiety was horrible and the sweating in bed changing my sheets over and over along with my tshirt thru the night.. I tried many times before. I had 4 months before. I always wished I had money to go to a rehab, but I did not. I was trying to hold onto my house for my daughter and myself. She was 10 at the time. I went to AA like I had on countless attempts to stop. I had been on a binder for over 2 weeks and all of a sudden I couldnt drink enough to get drunk, I was stone cold sober even after drinking straight shots. I cried uncontrollably. I didnt want to feel what life was at that time. The real estate market had just tanked. I stayed home and drank day and night with no money except what i bought at the store. 18 pack of beer or 30 if I had money and maybe some tequila or red wine. After I couldnt get drunk and i went thru the dt's for 4 maybe 5 days I went to that meeting and cried more uncontrollably. I got a sponsor before I left that room. I called her every day for hours on in.. today, she is a very dear friend...who after i spoke to today is loosing one of her friends due to this disease. She found out her friend only has 4 months to live..he has jondice and cerosis of the liver. Being sober isnt easy, but after the initial detox, it gets better..I have anxiety and depression too. I have gone to county hospitals and been seen. I waited till I had a year before getting meds. I thought I was bi polar. I am not. But bad anxiety.. The meds are nessacary. My friend please get help.. god loves you, but you must learn to love yourself. The people in AA will love you till you can love yourself.. you have to stop beating yourself up... it hurts, I know. Just take it one night of not drinking and go to a meeting whenever you usually drink. if your not working go to 3 a day... whatever you have to do...please. your worth it....

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