Effects of alcohol on liver and brain function and on unborn babies

Alcohol and liver function

Drinking excess alcohol can damage the liver, the organ responsible for processing and breaking down alcohol.

  • liver damage causes the patient to feel sick, experience weight loss, loss of appetite, there is a yellowing of the eyes, confusion, drowsiness and vomiting of blood
  • cirrhosis of the liver can develop – the liver becomes scarred and loses its ability to function
  • changes are now irreversible and the reduced ability to process alcohol can also lead to brain damage

Alcohol and brain function

Alcohol affects the brain in several ways, it:

  • slows reaction time
  • causes difficulty walking
  • can impair memory
  • causes slurred speech
  • causes changes in sleep patterns and mood, including increased anxiety and depression

Longer-term drinking of excess alcohol:

  • causes brain shrinkage
  • leads to memory problems
  • leads to psychiatric problems
  • may result in the patient requiring long-term care

The effects of alcohol on unborn babies

Alcohol can lead to a variety of physical, developmental and behavioural effects on the foetus. The most serious is foetal alcohol syndrome, where the foetus:

  • is smaller in size
  • has a smaller brain with fewer neurones
  • will have long-term learning and behavioural difficulties
  • has distinct facial features