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Can alcohol be giving you brain damage?

Can alcohol be giving you brain damage?
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Alcohol: the elixir of student life. But is it your friend or foe?

Everyone is aware of what happens in the short-term (see you later student-loan), but what about alcohol’s more ominous long-term implications?

Alarmingly, children as young as nine-years-old are being treated for alcohol brain damage in Glasgow. Across all ages and across the UK, numbers are rising in those admitted to hospital for mental and behavioural problems associated with alcohol abuse. These include psychotic disorders, withdrawal and delirium.

According to The Times, reported brain damage amongst drinkers aged 50 and above had trebled in the last ten years. In 2015, there were 3,627 admissions of over-50s with alcohol related brain damage, compared with 994 in 2002. Interestingly, The Times note that alcoholism amongst the middle-class drinkers is alarmingly under-reported as their daily wine intake is seen as a mere social routine.

For instance, Tony Rao, a consultant psychiatrist, argues that alcohol habits of the middle classes are often overlooked by doctors. He states that class stereotypes play a role as “if an educated woman turns up at a GP surgery or A&E with a fall, no one asks about her alcohol intake.” Published in 2015, Rao’s study found that one in five of over 65’s exceeded the recommended weekly alcohol unit limits. What’s difficult, however, is that denial is central to an alcoholic’s mentality and so measures like glass sizes are too often skewed by drinkers.

The World Health Organisation ranks the UK as 25th in the world for consumption of alcohol per person from the age of 15.  Although 25th on the list doesn’t sound too outrageous, hospital admissions wholly connected to alcohol are considerably on the rise in the UK. Between 2007-2008 and 2013-2014, admissions to hospital rose by 30% amongst 25-54 year olds and a startling 70% for those aged 55 and over.

Fortunately, in our generation, mental health problems are highly focussed on in health policy, and institutions like universities are making great strides towards raising awareness. Professor Wallace, an NHS specialist on alcohol related problems, explains that alcohol gives you a higher propensity for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Professor Wallace states that your brain is affected much earlier than your liver, leading to issues such as impulse control, problems making complex decisions, self-monitoring and reasoning. Any of those issues can severely impair one’s day to day life, such as sorting out personal finances.

It appears that, as has been the case for decades, alcohol is embedded so much into British social customs that its broader health implications are still overlooked. With binge drinking at its peak, it’s time to start addressing what goes on behind the scenes of your mental night out. You may be worried about not remembering antics from the night before, but in reality, you may have a lot more to be concerned about.

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Holly Smith Editor

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