The Long Lasting Effect Of Alcohol On The Brain

1547 words - 6 pages

“Each year in the U.S., nearly 80,000 people die from alcohol-related causes, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in our country” (Alcohol Facts 1). Alcoholism is a major controversy in the United States, and many debate whether alcoholism is a disease or choice. Accordingly, based on scientific evidence, alcoholism is a disease because it has major long-term effects on the brain, it is an addiction, and it is treated medically.
The first major reason alcoholism should be considered disease is the long-lasting effects it has on the brain. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently conducted a study that shows how the brain is affected after chronic alcohol use. They concluded that, “chronic alcohol exposure leads to brain adaptations that shift behavior control away from an area of the brain involved in complex decision making and toward a region associated with habit making” (“NIH Study” 1). The prefrontal cortex is the decision-making and emotion controlling part of the brain. Past studies done by the NIH have also shown that alcohol dependent people have problems with the skills involved in the prefrontal cortex. To further investigate the affects researchers, Andrew Holmes (Ph. D, in the Laboratory of Behavioral and Genomic Neuroscience at NIAAA) and his team, measured the changes in mice’s brain after chronic exposure to alcohol vapors. During their study they saw major changes in the dorsal striatum, the branching projections of the nerve cell that conduct signals of the mice. They concluded that, “After prolonged exposure to the alcohol vapors changed the mice’s brains” (“NIH Study” 2). During both of these studies the scientists saw changes in the brain. Opposing arguments repeatedly state that alcoholics choose to drink excessively and choose to become addicted. In an article written by Shari Roan, Dr. Mark Willenburg, director of treatment and recovery research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism stated, “People with mild to moderate alcohol disorders can be treated with medications or behavioral therapy with a primary care doctor, but many people can do this on their own without having a professional. This idea is teaching people how to reevaluate their drinking”(Roan 2). By saying this Dr. WIllenburg has changed the opinions of many speculators in the nation, but what he has failed to do throughout his investigations is to take a people who exceed the mark for moderate drinking into question. Alcoholism is defined a chronic disorder marked by excessive and usually compulsive drinking of alcohol leading to psychological and physical dependence or addiction (“Addiction” 1). The definition of alcoholism alone is enough to show that it is a serious problem, and it should be treated as such.
The second reason alcoholism should be considered a disease is because of addiction. Addiction is defined in the Webster dictionary as, an unusually great interest in something or a need...

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