Influence of alcohol on brain cells

As I am not related to biology, I would appreciate if you can keep your answers as simple as possible.

My question is about the influence of alcohol on the brain. As far as I know, drinking alcohol is killing cells in the brain. But is it linear? E.g. if I have 1.0 per mil and it kills 1000 cells will 2.0 per mil kill 2000 cells?

(An equation would be nice)


The situation is definitely an extremely complex one, and you should probably forget about having an exact equation to define it.

When talking about the effects of a substance on the organism there are several factors to take into account. These are generally put together under the term pharmacodynamics.

Some of the factor to take into account are:

  • The dose of the substance
  • The route of administration
  • The metabolism of the substance
  • The target organ

The problem is, not all ethanol you drink will go to the brain, and it will not necessarily go there immediately, or all at the same time. All of this will change the effects on the brain. Also, there are several confounding factors, some of which I have tried to list.

I have summarized here a few information about ethanol metabolism, taken mostly from Principles of Forensic Toxicology - Chapter 10 by Barry Levine and Yale H. Caplan

Ethanol is normally taken through drinking, which means that it will have to pass through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (i.e. stomach and intestine) before getting into the bloodstream. This route permits practically 100% of absorption of ethanol in the body, with the major site of absorption being the small intestine, absorbing ~75% of a dose of ethanol. The rest will be absorbed in the stomach and in the other parts of the intestine.

The absorption in the GI tract is dependent on the type of beverage: for instance carbonated alcoholic beverages are absorbed faster than "plain" ones. The alcohol content also is important: a very diluted drink is absorbed slower than one with 10-30% of ethanol, as the latter will generate a bigger concentration gradient between the GI tract and the circulation, so it will diffuse faster. However, >30% ethanol will enhance mucus formation, which will slow down absorption. Furthermore, absorption depends on the status of the GI tract: preexisting conditions (e.g. inflammation) can modify the rate at which the alcohol enters the bloodstream.

But, we are still far away from the brain! After being absorbed, ethanol goes into the vena cava, and passes through the liver, where it can be metabolized (destroyed) by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which converts ethanol into acetaldheyde, effectively reducing the ethanol concentration in the blood. This is a well-known phenomenon for many drugs, and it is called first pass effect Importantly, the human stomach also expresses ADH, so this first pass effect can start even before reaching the liver! The effects of ADH in the stomach obviously depends on how long the ethanol stays in there. So, it will be lower for an empty stomach then after a big meal.

Food, in fact, is also a well known factor that reduces the amount of ethanol in the blood.

For instance, these graphs show blood ethanol content in four healthy subjects after a 10 hour fast (filled circles) or after breakfast (empty circles), after drinking the same dose of 0.80 g ethanol/kg body weight, in 30 minutes.

From: Food-Induced Lowering of Blood-Ethanol Profiles and Increased Rate of Elimination Immediately After a Meal - Jones AW and Jönsson KA - J Forensic Sci., 1994.

As you can see, eating strongly decrease the ethanol blood content. Also see how there is quite a bit of variation between the different subjects (if you open the paper you will also see the graphs from other 6 subjects).

Also, you can look for instance at this paper (just got a random study, there seems to be a ton of them around): First pass metabolism of ethanol. - Lieber CS et al. - Alcohol Alcohol Suppl., 1994

Coming out of the liver, ethanol goes into the right side of the hearth, and from there to the lungs. This poses no particular issue for most drugs, but ethanol is volatile! So, part of the ethanol is released through respiration (in fact the "classic" way of saying if someone has drunk alcohol is to smell his breath). However, this only accounts for a minor decrease in blood ethanol levels.

Finally, ethanol can start going around the body. Being a water-soluble molecule it will tend to diffuse into water-containing parts of our body (i.e. you will not find much ethanol in fat), which include the brain.

In the meantime, however, the process of elimination has started: ethanol can be excreted in urine, sweat and breath, although the major route of elimination is epathic metabolism by ADH, accounting for >90% of ethanol elimination.

There is a neat formula to express all of this, called the Widmark equation:



$A$ = number of drinks consumed
$W$ = body weight (important because of the content of water in the body)
$r$ = Widmark constant (depends on sex, age, etc.)
$C_t$ = blood ethanol concentration at time t
$eta$ = acohol elimination rate
$t$ = time since the first drink
$z$ = volume of alcohol per drink

You can find examples of this formula in this PDF about Widmark equations

And now to the brain: ethanol does indeed have various effects on neurons. Short term effect essentially involve depression of neuronal activity, ethanol being able to modulate GABA signalling in the brain. Long term effect range from reduced neurogenesis (i.e. birth of new neurons) to reduced volume of certain brain areas, probably due to loss of neurons, to inflammation in the brain.

Again, the situation is very complex and it depends on the frequency of drinking, the amount of each drink and many other factors. A single dose of ethanol will probably have irrelevant effects on your neurons… as the amount needed (in one shot) for serious neurotoxicity will probably send you into ethilic coma. The exact mechanisms for these effects are only partially known and very likely to be derived by the interaction of numerous diverse effects.

Mechanisms of ethanol-induced degeneration in the developing, mature, and aging cerebellum. - Jaatinen and Rintala - Cerebellum, 2008

These mechanisms include: (i) excitotoxicity; (ii) dietary factors, especially thiamine depletion; (iii) glial abnormalities; (iv) changes in growth factors; (v) apoptotic mechanisms; (vi) oxidative stress; and (vii) compromised energy production.

I will not go into the details of all of this, but it should be clear by now that all the things I mentioned so far (and many other factors I did not talk about) make it extremely difficult to give an exact quantification of the number of cells killed by ethanol. Surely the relationship is not linear, in fact, for instance, positive effects of small doses of alcohol have been reported numerous times.

A few more references on effects of alcohol on the brain:

Reduced neurogenesis

Long-lasting reduction in hippocampal neurogenesis by alcohol consumption in adolescent nonhuman primates. - Taffe et al. - PNAS, 2010

Adolescent binge alcohol exposure alters hippocampal progenitor cell proliferation in rats: effects on cell cycle kinetics. - McClain et al. - J Comp Neurol., 2011

Brain volume decrease

Decreased volume of the brain reward system in alcoholism. - Makris et al. - Biol Psychiatry, 2008

Amygdala volume associated with alcohol abuse relapse and craving. - Wrase et al. - Am J Psychiatry., 2008

Hyperhomocysteinemia as a new risk factor for brain shrinkage in patients with alcoholism. - Bleich et al. - Neurosci Lett., 2003

Content: Biological Factors Influence Alcohol Intoxication

There are several biological factors that can increase or decrease the degree of intoxication when an individual drinks alcohol. The effect of these biological factors, for the same number of drinks, are summarized below. Click on the appropriate links to find additional discussion in other modules.

Body mass: larger people have a lower BAC

Gender: females have a higher BAC

Age: young people (< age 24) are less sensitive to early intoxicating effects of alcohol such as sedation and motor coordination, but they are more sensitive to the memory loss produced by alcohol

Tolerance: a person who drinks regularly is less sensitive to alcohol and has a lower BAC. Interestingly, tolerance does not develop to the lethal dose of alcohol.

Metabolism: a person with a faster metabolism rate has a lower BAC

Race/ethnicity: certain populations can metabolize alcohol more quickly leading to a lower BAC, or metabolize alcohol more slowly leading to a higher BAC.

Genetics: different forms of the same gene can lead to different degrees of alcohol metabolism this occurs in the general population, as well as in specific racial/ethnic populations.

Figure 2.8 A variety of factors influence the degree of alcohol intoxication. Move your cursor over the arrow to read how each factor impacts intoxication.

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Serotonin's role in alcohol's effects on the brain

Serotonin is an important brain chemical that acts as a neurotransmitter to communicate information among nerve cells. Serotonin's actions have been linked to alcohol's effects on the brain and to alcohol abuse. Alcoholics and experimental animals that consume large quantities of alcohol show evidence of differences in brain serotonin levels compared with nonalcoholics. Both short- and long-term alcohol exposure also affect the serotonin receptors that convert the chemical signal produced by serotonin into functional changes in the signal-receiving cell. Drugs that act on these receptors alter alcohol consumption in both humans and animals. Serotonin, along with other neurotransmitters, also may contribute to alcohol's intoxicating and re. warding effects, and abnormalities in the brain's serotonin system appear to play an important role in the brain processes underlying alcohol abuse.


Activation of serotonin receptors (5-HTR) produces multiple…

Activation of serotonin receptors (5-HTR) produces multiple effects on neurons. Serotonin (5-HT) can bind to…

How Alcoholism Works

Most of us have witnessed the outward signs of heavy drinking: the stumbling walk, slurred words and memory lapses. People who have been drinking have trouble with their balance, judgment and coordination. They react slowly to stimuli, which is why drinking before driving is so dangerous. All of these physical signs occur because of the way alcohol affects the brain and central nervous system.

Alcohol affects brain chemistry by altering levels of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit the signals throughout the body that control thought processes, behavior and emotion. Neurotransmitters are either excitatory, meaning that they stimulate brain electrical activity, or inhibitory, meaning that they decrease brain electrical activity. Alcohol increases the effects of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. GABA causes the sluggish movements and slurred speech that often occur in alcoholics. At the same time, alcohol inhibits the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. Suppressing this stimulant results in a similar type of physiological slowdown. In addition to increasing the GABA and decreasing the glutamate in the brain, alcohol increases the amount of the chemical dopamine in the brain's reward center, which creates the feeling of pleasure that occurs when someone takes a drink.

Summary of alcohol's effects on the brain - Move your cursor over the colored bar in the lower left-hand corner to see which areas of the brain are affected by increasing BAC.

Alcohol affects the different regions of the brain in different ways:

  • Cerebral cortex: In this region, where thought processing and consciousness are centered, alcohol depresses the behavioral inhibitory centers, making the person less inhibited it slows down the processing of information from the eyes, ears, mouth and other senses and it inhibits the thought processes, making it difficult to think clearly.
  • Cerebellum: Alcohol affects this center of movement and balance, resulting in the staggering, off-balance swagger we associate with the so-called "falling-down drunk."
  • Hypothalamusand pituitary: The hypothalamus and pituitary coordinate automatic brain functions and hormone release. Alcohol depresses nerve centers in the hypothalamus that control sexual arousal and performance. Although sexual urge may increase, sexual performance decreases.
  • Medulla: This area of the brain handles such automatic functions as breathing, consciousness and body temperature. By acting on the medulla, alcohol induces sleepiness. It can also slow breathing and lower body temperature, which can be life threatening.

In the short term, alcohol can cause blackouts -- short-term memory lapses in which people forget what occurred over entire stretches of time. The long-term effects on the brain can be even more damaging.

Research reveals secrets of alcohol's effect on brain cells

NEW YORK (Dec. 7, 2007) -- Alcohol triggers the activation of a variety of genes that can influence the health and activity of brain cells, and new research from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City sheds light on how that process occurs.

The findings, published in the Nov. 21 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, may also edge scientists closer to understanding alcohol-linked disorders such as the brain damage associated with chronic alcoholism, and the abnormal brain development seen in the fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

"If you are going to understand the biological effects of alcohol on genes within cells, you have to understand the molecular machinery driving the transcription, or activation, of the genes in question. That's what we believe we have done here," says the study's senior author Dr. Neil L. Harrison, professor of pharmacology and pharmacology in anesthesiology at Weill Cornell.

In research conducted in cell cultures and in mouse neurons in vivo, his team found that alcohol stimulates a ubiquitous, stress-linked biochemical cascade -- called the heat shock pathway -- to send a molecule called heat shock factor 1 (HSF1) into the neuron's nucleus. HSF1 then stimulates the transcription of many of the genes known to be activated by alcohol.

The fact that alcohol triggers the activation of genes in the brain is not new and has long been the subject of intense research.

One gene in particular, called Gabra4, is closely linked to the function (or dysfunction) of receptors for GABA, an important neurotransmitter.

"We knew that levels of expression of Gabra4 fluctuated rapidly in the presence of alcohol, and so we wondered if we could find out how this happens," says lead author Dr. Leonardo Pignataro, instructor in pharmacology in anesthesiology at Weill Cornell.

At the same time, research in Korea with the C. elegans worm (a common tool for genomics research) had discovered that alcohol worked on a particular bit of DNA to trigger activity in the heat shock pathway, finding the same piece of DNA in the Gabra4 gene of mice and humans. "This was all very intriguing, because the heat shock pathway is a biochemical mechanism found in almost all cells and all organisms," says Dr. Harrison. "Scientists believe it helps cells deal with stressors -- including excessive heat or environmental toxins -- substances such as alcohol."

Working with mouse cells in the lab, the researchers used microarray technologies to search for genes other than Gabra4 that might be activated when the heat shock pathway was exposed to alcohol. They found many others.

"The big question that remains is how does this activation occur" The current theory holds that, under conditions of stress, heat shock proteins break away from a key molecule, HSF1. HSF1 then makes its way to the cell nucleus, where it helps stimulate the transcription and activation of a variety of genes that enable the cell to survive stress. We think this may happen with alcohol exposure," Dr. Harrison explains.

This finding, observed in vitro in the cell cultures, was replicated in in vivo experiments in mice, conducted in the lab of Dr. Daniel Herrera, assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell and an attending psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.

"It was really exciting to see this mechanism work itself out in an animal model, suggesting that this same pathway may mediate at least some of the effects of alcohol on human brain cells," Dr. Herrera says.

Exactly what those effects might mean clinically remains in the realm of speculation for now, the researchers stress.

"Alcohol can have bad effects -- the well-known effects of alcoholism, such as liver or brain damage, for example -- but moderate alcohol use also has more benign effects, such as the improvement in cardiovascular health observed in drinkers of red wine compared with tee-totallers," Dr. Pignataro points out.

One theory holds that alcohol-mediated stimulation of the heat shock pathway might trigger genes that help mop up mis-folded proteins that can damage cells. This would be a beneficial effect.

"But it might also be possible that inappropriate activity of this pathway -- either during fetal brain development or in the adult brain -- is harmful. We just don't know," Dr. Harrison says. "We'd certainly like to explore these issues going forward, and this research will give us some tools to answer these questions."

This research was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Reader's Digest Foundation.

Co-researchers include Alexandria N. Miller and Shonali Midha of Weill Cornell Medical College Dr. Limei Ma, formerly of Dr. Harrison's lab and now at The Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City and Dr. Petr Protiva, of The Rockefeller University, New York City, and the University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington.

Weill Cornell Medical College

Weill Cornell Medical College -- Cornell University's Medical School located in New York City -- is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Weill Cornell, which is a principal academic affiliate of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, offers an innovative curriculum that integrates the teaching of basic and clinical sciences, problem-based learning, office-based preceptorships, and primary care and doctoring courses. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research in such areas as stem cells, genetics and gene therapy, geriatrics, neuroscience, structural biology, cardiovascular medicine, infectious disease, obesity, cancer, psychiatry and public health -- and continue to delve ever deeper into the molecular basis of disease in an effort to unlock the mysteries behind the human body and the malfunctions that result in serious medical disorders. The Medical College -- in its commitment to global health and education -- has a strong presence in such places as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. With the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, the Medical School is the first in the U.S. to offer its M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances -- from the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer to the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial for gene therapy for Parkinson's disease, the first indication of bone marrow's critical role in tumor growth, and, most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally-conscious brain-injured patient. For more information, visit

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

Q&A: Does drinking alcohol kill brain cells?

A. Alcohol is a neurotoxin that can disrupt communications of the brain. It also affects functions of brain cells directly and indirectly through different organ dysfunction from alcohol usage and vitamin deficiency. Depending on the area of the brain affected, people can have different symptoms. Abusing alcohol can lead to seizure, stroke and dementia, to name a few conditions. Additionally, alcohol is toxic to a developing brain during pregnancy and can cause birth defects, including developmental disorders with lifelong impact.

There has been talk about alcohol being good for the brain and heart. People like to say what&rsquos good for the heart is good for the brain. Recent findings now question alcohol's benefit for the heart in terms of coronary heart disease. There&rsquos a chemical found in red grapes called resveratrol that might be helpful to people with Alzheimer&rsquos disease. This chemical is currently undergoing clinical trials, but more studies are needed at this time.

There&rsquos no known level of safe drinking. Impact of alcohol consumption depends on the age, gender, medical issues, medications, genetics, personal situations, etc. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse on Alcoholism (NIAAA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have very good information regarding alcohol consumption.

If you're experiencing problems with alcohol, speak with your health care provider or a licensed counselor.


A large proportion of adolescents drink alcohol, with many engaging in high-risk patterns of consumption, including binge drinking. Here, we systematically review and synthesize the existing empirical literature on how consuming alcohol affects the developing human brain in alcohol-using (AU) youth.


For this systematic review, we began by conducting a literature search using the PubMED database to identify all available peer-reviewed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of AU adolescents (aged 19 and under). All studies were screened against a strict set of criteria designed to constrain the impact of confounding factors, such as co-occurring psychiatric conditions.


Twenty-one studies (10 MRI and 11 fMRI) met the criteria for inclusion. A synthesis of the MRI studies suggested that overall, AU youth showed regional differences in brain structure as compared with non-AU youth, with smaller grey matter volumes and lower white matter integrity in relevant brain areas. In terms of fMRI outcomes, despite equivalent task performance between AU and non-AU youth, AU youth showed a broad pattern of lower task-relevant activation, and greater task-irrelevant activation. In addition, a pattern of gender differences was observed for brain structure and function, with particularly striking effects among AU females.


Alcohol consumption during adolescence was associated with significant differences in structure and function in the developing human brain. However, this is a nascent field, with several limiting factors (including small sample sizes, cross-sectional designs, presence of confounding factors) within many of the reviewed studies, meaning that results should be interpreted in light of the preliminary state of the field. Future longitudinal and large-scale studies are critical to replicate the existing findings, and to provide a more comprehensive and conclusive picture of the effect of alcohol consumption on the developing brain.

What Alcohol Really Does to Your Brain

What happens once that vodka cranberry works its way through your bloodstream and hits the control center behind your eyes?

We hear many different things about how alcohol affects the brain and body, most notably that it is a depressant. That's only part of the story. Alcohol is a depressant, but it's also an indirect stimulant, and plays a few other roles that might surprise you.

Alcohol directly affects brain chemistry by altering levels of neurotransmitters -- the chemical messengers that transmit the signals throughout the body that control thought processes, behavior and emotion. Alcohol affects both "excitatory" neurotransmitters and "inhibitory" neurotransmitters.

An example of an excitatory neurotransmitter is glutamate, which would normally increase brain activity and energy levels. Alcohol suppresses the release of glutamate, resulting in a slowdown along your brain's highways.

An example of an inhibitory neurotransmitter is GABA, which reduces energy levels and calms everything down. Drugs like Xanax and Valium (and other benzodiazopenes) increase GABA production in the brain, resulting in sedation. Alcohol does the same thing by increasing the effects of GABA. This, by the way, is one reason you don't want to drink alcohol while taking benzodiazopenes the effects will be amplified, and that can slow your heart rate and respiratory system down to dangerous levels.

So what we just discussed accounts for the depressant effects of alcohol: it suppresses the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate and increases the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. What this means for you is that your thought, speech and movements are slowed down, and the more you drink the more of these effects you'll feel (hence the stumbling around, falling over chairs and other clumsy things drunk people do).

But here's the twist: alcohol also increases the release of dopamine in your brain's "reward center." The reward center is the same combination of brain areas (particularly the ventral striatum) that are affected by virtually all pleasurable activity, including everything from hanging out with friends, going on vacation, getting a big bonus at work, ingesting drugs (like cocaine and crystal meth), and drinking alcohol.

By jacking up dopamine levels in your brain, alcohol tricks you into thinking that it's actually making you feel great (or maybe just better, if you are drinking to get over something emotionally difficult). The effect is that you keep drinking to get more dopamine release, but at the same time you're altering other brain chemicals that are enhancing feelings of depression.

Research suggests that alcohol's affect on dopamine is more significant for men than women, which may account for men drinking more than women on average. According to results from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), alcoholism affects men more than women: About 10 percent of men, compared to 3 to 5 percent of women, become alcoholics over the course of their lifetime.

Over time, with more drinking, the dopamine effect diminishes until it's almost nonexistent. But at this stage, a drinker is often "hooked" on the feeling of dopamine release in the reward center, even though they're no longer getting it. Once a compulsive need to go back again and again for that release is established, addiction takes hold. The length of time it takes for this to happen is case-specific some people have a genetic propensity for alcoholism and for them it will take very little time, while for others it may take several weeks or months.

Below is a useful summary from the website HowStuffWorks explaining how alcohol affects different parts of the brain:

Why drinking makes you less inhibited:

  • Cerebral cortex: In this region, where thought processing and consciousness are centered, alcohol depresses the behavioral inhibitory centers, making the person less inhibited it slows down the processing of information from the eyes, ears, mouth and other senses and it inhibits the thought processes, making it difficult to think clearly.

Why drinking makes you clumsy:

  • Cerebellum: Alcohol affects this center of movement and balance, resulting in the staggering, off-balance swagger we associate with the so-called "falling-down drunk."

Why drinking increases sexual urges but decreases sexual performance:

How Long Does It Take For The Brain To Recover From Drinking? Science Says Longer Than We Think

Alcohol takes a rapid toll on the brain, as most of us know, and caution is well warranted about what we choose to do while under its influence. What isn’t so well known is the hit our brains take much later, after the booze has left the system.

The latest research on the topic was a meta-analysis of several studies that examined brain impairment hours to a day after heavy drinking. With few exceptions, these studies showed that our cognitive abilities, like attention and memory, are debilitated even when alcohol in the blood is no longer measurable.

“Impaired performance in these abilities reflects poorer concentration and focus, decreased memory and reduced reaction times,” said lead study author Craig Gunn of the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath.

Why this happens is largely about how embattled our bodies and brains are from the chemical assault that comes with heavy drinking (defined by the CDC as more than four drinks for women or more than five for men). Alcohol is a potent diuretic that causes the body to lose a lot of liquid, up to four times what’s consumed while drinking, leading to dehydration. To compensate, organs draw in as much fluid as they can, leaving the brain fighting to stay hydrated. As a result, the brain dura—the membrane that encases the brain and spinal cord—actually shrinks.

As all of this fluid is leaving our bodies, magnesium, potassium, sodium and other nutrients necessary for stable cognitive functioning are flushing out as well. Those nutrients aren’t immediately replaced once the alcohol is gone, nor do the depleted membranes instantly bounce back. Recovery from the ethanol siege takes time.

The brain won’t return to form for many hours, perhaps more than a day in some cases. And attention, memory, reaction time and decision-making abilities aren’t fully engaged until that happens. Believing we can jump right into our regular routines and perform as usual is unrealistic, as this research analysis shows.

"Our findings demonstrate that hangover can have serious consequences for the performance of everyday activities such as driving and workplace skills such as concentration and memory,” added senior study author Sally Adams of the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath.

The research offers a couple of takeaways. The most obvious is that heavy drinking is simply a bad idea, for many reasons — among them the toll it takes on our bodies and brains. Another is that when we drink, it’s foolish to think we won’t suffer extended consequences beyond just the headache and queasiness. Work isn’t going to go well. We’re not going to be fully present in our relationships. Our brains aren’t going to perform as we'd like.

In other words, drinking isn’t just about the time spent drinking, it’s also about all of the time it’s going to take to recover, and our brains recover slower than we think.

Alcohol versus pot

Hutchison and his team were able to statistically control for the use of alcohol while looking for the effects of cannabis, and vice versa. What they found for alcohol use was not surprising, considering booze is a known neurotoxin, Hutchison said: Heavier alcohol use led to greater declines in gray matter and declines in the quality of connections in white matter. [7 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health]

In contrast, "we don't see any statistically significant effects of cannabis on gray matter or white matter," Hutchison said.

The findings have public health implications, he said. There are limited funds in the public coffer for minimizing the damage of people's recreational substance use, so focusing on the substance that does the most damage might make sense, Hutchison said. But there are also many more research questions to answer, and future studies could look at the long-term impacts of cannabis use by following the same people over time, the researchers wrote.

There is also a need for more research into the interaction between alcohol and cannabis, Hutchison said, especially because people who use these substances tend to use both.

Watch the video: Ναρκωτικά και εγκέφαλος - Νικοτίνη και Αλκοόλ (January 2022).