Everybody drinks alcohol, right? If you watch TV or pay attention to any mass media it’s easy to believe that’s true. The fact is that only about 48% of the world’s population consumes alcohol.
Most of those folks can take it or leave it. Some of them may drink a bit more than is healthy but nobody would call them “problem drinkers”. But, a small percentage of men and women who drink alcohol will become addicted, or alcoholic.
Is Alcoholism A Brain Disease?
Over the past couple of decades, research on the causes of alcoholism has become increasingly sophisticated. New technologies, such as PET scanners, have allowed scientists to look into our brains more closely than ever before. They have found that alcoholism has much more effect on the brain than previously thought.
Based on these discoveries, the medical community has become increasingly comfortable labeling alcoholism a brain disease.
They have found that as we consume unhealthy amounts of alcohol we damage our brains. We all know that heavy drinking kills brain cells, right? Well the actual damage is not done directly to the neurons, which are the cells that make up our brains and the rest of our Central Nervous Systems. The damage is actually done to glial cells, which are a sort of support cell for the neuron. If we continue to drink heavily enough glial cells are damaged and the neuron itself eventually dies.
Once a cell is gone, it’s gone. So…bad new, right?
Actually, recent research has indicated that while neurons don’t magically regenerate, all is not lost. The brain, in it’s characteristic focus on survival, attempts to create new neuronal pathways to replace lost functionality. Think of it like a detour…one street is under construction so you go around the block to eventually get to your destination.
Now, this regeneration takes some time. This is why folks in early recovery from alcoholism change so much in the first 60 or 90 days. They become calmer and more clear headed as their brains work to replace lost functionality by “rewiring” itself.
Good News For Alcoholic Drinkers
If you are a problem drinker, or you love someone who is, this is all good news for you. This all means that it’s likely not too late to pull the nose of your plane out of a dive. You still have time to quit drinking and recapture the life you have likely lost…or at least damaged.
The challenge is that you will probably need help. You will need to find someone who is specifically trained to help with substance abuse problems. They will be able to guide you through activities that promote the new cell growth that will restore maximum functionality.
You won’t get your old life back. But what you get back may just be better!
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