Central Nervous System
Alcohol has a profound effect on the cells of the central nervous system. The toxic nature of alcohol impairs memory, reasoning, and judgment. In extreme cases a syndrome known as a blackout can occur. A person may appear to be functioning in an alert state yet will have no recall of events that occurred. Some researchers believe that alcohol inhibits memory formation in the states of alcohol intoxication.
Impaired reaction time and motor coordination are also evident with alcohol abuse. As alcohol also affects the senses such as vision and hearing, such impairments severely limit one's ability to use motorized equipment. Accidents and falls are problematic with alcohol use.
Cellular damage from alcohol is also responsible for a condition known as neuropathy. Symptoms of neuropathy include alternating feelings of pain, burning, numbness, and weakness in the hands and feet.
In extreme cases of long time alcohol abuse a form of dementia can occur. While this type of dementia is preventable, abstinence from alcohol has had only marginal improvement for those already suffering form the effects.
An adequate amount of sleep in necessary for optimal health chronic alcohol use interferes with normal sleep patterns by its influence on the sleep/dream cycle.
Alcohol also has an impact on the emotional/psychological state of the user. Because alcohol is a depressant, symptoms that mimic psychosis can occur. These can include depression, anxiety, panic, and difficulty maintaining social relationships.
There is also relationship between alcohol and suicide. This is related to the depressive state that accompanies the use of alcohol. The user may be using alcohol to self-medicate for an existing depressive state or suffer depression directly as a result of alcohol use.
As previously discussed, alcohol is toxic to cells of the central nervous system. Chronic use can lead to a very serious condition known as Wernicke's encephalopathy. This is caused by a severe depletion of vitamins and especially thiamine (a B vitamin).
Symptoms associated with this disorder include profound dysfunction including apathy and inability to perform activities of daily living. Advanced cases can progress to Korsakoff's psychosis in which severe memory disturbances occur. Additionally, sufferers cannot learn new information in an effective way. For the majority of persons with this disorder treatment is not successful.