Effects of Alcohol on Central Nervous System

Alcohol at any measurable concentration in blood can produce measurable slowing of reflexes, hence driving after consuming any amount of alcohol can be dangerous and the more amount of alcohol consumed, the greater is the risk and danger. Because higher intake of alcohol leads to higher blood alcohol concentration, which in turn leads to greater slowing of reflexes.

Generally performance is impaired, due to disturbance of precise movements and fine discrimination, hence risk of error increase. However, there may sometimes be improvement of performance due to disappearance of fear of punishment and anxiety of failure.

The effects of alcohol on CNS is more profound and marked when plasma concentration of alcohol is increasing, than falling. This phenomenon is most probably due to development of tolerance.

Effects of alcohol on CNS (central nervous system) at low plasma concentration:

Alcohol is primarily a neuronal depressant. The excitatory effects of alcohol (such as euphoria, apparent excitation etc.) are seen at lower plasma alcohol concentration at about 30-60 mgs per 100 ml of blood. At first, hesitation, caution, restraint, inhibition of self-criticism is lost. Next, mood and feeling can be altered and anxiety is allayed. All these are usually seen at lower plasma concentration of alcohol at about 30-60 mgs per 100 ml of blood.

Effects of alcohol on CNS at moderate plasma concentration:

If plasma alcohol concentration rises little higher to about 80-150 mgs per 100 ml of blood, mental clouding, impairment of attention, disorganization of thoughts, memory disturbance, alteration of perception, alteration of gait and drowsiness occurs.

Effects of alcohol on CNS at higher plasma concentration:

At higher plasma alcohol concentration, i.e. 150-200 mgs of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, the individual becomes drunk, sloppy and ataxic. At high plasma alcohol concentration “blackout” can occur.

Effects of alcohol on CNS at very high plasma concentration:

At very high plasma alcohol concentration, i.e. 200-300 mgs of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, stupor can occur and above 300 mgs of alcohol per 100 ml of blood unconsciousness results. At this concentration, death may occur due to paralysis of medullary centers.

Alcohol can induce sleep, but it cannot be used as sleep medication, because it is not dependable sleeping agent (known as hypnotic in medical term). Alcoholics suffer from insomnia and there is disturbance of sleep architecture. “Hangover” in the next morning is common with alcohol consumption, which is characterized by dry mouth, headache, mood disturbance, laziness and impaired performance.

Alcohol can precipitate seizure, because it reduces seizure threshold. Chronic alcoholism and chronic alcohol intoxication can cause brain atrophy by damaging the neurons of the brain.

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