Chronic use of alcohol can have profound effects on the brain over time. Just as with opioids, chronic use changes the neurotransmitter balance of the brain. This occurs with alcoholism. Alcoholism effects physical and mental health over time. The definition of alcoholism is defined by the following by alcohol.org:
- Drinking alcohol for longer than intended
- Unsuccessful attempts at trying to stop drinking
- Too much drinking causes problems with daily activities and relationships
- Daily cravings for alcohol
- Continuing to drink even when it hurts relationships with friends and family
- Cutting back or giving up on activities/hobbies to consume more alcohol
- Being in repeated situations where alcohol puts one in harm’s way
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol meaning the need to drink more to get drunk
- Continuing to consume alcohol in the face of ill-health, anxiety and/or depression
- Experiencing alcohol withdrawal effects when abstaining from drinking
Long term brain effects of alcohol are many. Alcohol use increases GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter associated with calming and sedation. On the other spectrum, glutamate which is an excitatory neurotransmitter is reduced in the brain. Since alcohol promotes calming and a sedative effect, chronic use causes the brain to reduce the amount of GABA produced and therefore decreases the amount of GABA receptors in the brain. On the other hand, glutamate receptors are increased. These receptors called NMDA receptors are excitatory and when a person stops drinking, the sedative balance of alcohol is withdrawn leaving only NDMA and glutamic receptors in an excitatory state. This excitatory state is what causes withdrawal symptoms and can promote seizures and brain damage.
Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol include shaking, sweating, agitation, restlessness, irritability, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, tremor, headache, insomnia and sometimes seizures.
NAD+ levels can drop dramatically with alcoholism. It can lead to disease states as well as alcohol fatty liver disease. As we know healthy NAD+ levels are needed for healthy genes, especially those found in the mitochondria of our cells. Low levels of NAD+ can have aging effects as well as impaired cellular repair.
Although NAD+ therapy is not the only answer in alcohol recovery, it can play a vital role in detox. As discussed before, our NAD+ Brain Refuel™ Program and FastVitaminIV® push alleviates or significantly reduces the withdrawal experience making it easier to come off of alcohol. Then patients feel better and can participate in rehabilitation programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or other therapies to help with long term sobriety or abstinence. We also recommend NAD+ maintenance therapy tailored to each patient’s needs. This will help reduce long term cravings or PAWS (post-acute withdrawal symptoms).