Drinking and Mental Health: Does it Help or Hurt?
When alcohol is used regularly or in high quantities, the user is subject to a countless number of mental health problems because alcohol changes the brain’s chemistry. Our brains rely on a balance of chemicals and processes that react on neurotransmitters which control our thoughts, emotions, and bodily functions. As stated by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.”
Alcohol Affects the Brain Chemistry
Alcohol is known as a depressant and it suppresses the function of the neurotransmitters in our brain, effectively producing the relaxed feeling you get when you drink. Over time, and with repeated use, alcohol damages these neurotransmitters and they begin to respond negatively or inappropriately. Because alcohol damages brain cells and the parts of the brain that keep us in good mental health, memory and concentration problems become major issues when a person has been drinking too long or too much.
The Harmful Effects
Many people drink socially, to feel better, celebrate, or relax. When used temporarily and in small amounts, alcohol use can have positive benefits. However, when people drink to mask mental health issues or to avoid unpleasant emotions such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, or pain, mental health becomes a concern. Still, many more people become addicted to alcohol which, then, causes mental health concerns.
Drinking and Mental Health go hand in hand, but the consequences of drinking are more harmful than good. Some mental health issues such as memory loss can be permanent. Drinking can cause memory lapse or blackouts, hallucinations, delusions, and other mental health disorders such as psychosis. Alcohol psychosis is a severe mental illness where hallucinations and delusions of persecution develop. When heavy drinkers suddenly stop drinking, they may develop a condition known as delirium tremens or DT’s, where the symptoms include body tremors and deliriums or confusion.
Drinking can cause the user to become unpredictable in their thoughts or behaviors and exhibit unusual emotions and mood swings. They may become aggressive, depressed, angry, confused, or suicidal. They may lose their sense of judgment and become violent, break the law, or lose their inhibitions and behave impulsively which can harm themselves or others. Denial and dishonesty about drinking is first sign of alcoholism. The person may seclude themselves to avoid having to deal with responsibilities or obligations to family, friends, employers, and others in society. They may begin to lose sleep or suffer a myriad of physical health problems. Their mental health suffers from the stress of all these chaotic events and soon, it becomes a vicious cycle.