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How Alcohol Damages Your Mental Health

Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Wale Ojediran offers deep insight into what happens in your head every time you overdo it with alcohol.


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Prevalence of mental health problems in Nigeria

Psychoactive substances like drugs and alcohol have an effect on the brain chemistry. They exert their effects by increasing or decreasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain. 

This would have been fun if not for the fact that the brain works to perfection on a tightly controlled balance of chemicals and any little alteration in one leads to a cascade of adjustments and readjustments to cancel out the initial alteration. 
For example, various debilitating diseases of the brain like Schizophrenia, Dementia, Parkinson's disease have all been linked to alterations of these chemicals. 

Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Wale Ojediran offers deep insight into what happens in your head every time you overdo it with alcohol.

He describes the brain as a finely made soup that contains a well-balanced mixture of ingredients.
Now when someone starts taking alcohol (or other psychoactive substances) repeatedly, the individual constantly takes a substance that affects the neurochemistry of the brain.

Initially the brain can cope by adjusting for the alterations but over time the brain gets overwhelmed and makes some long-term plans to accommodate this constant intrusion. 
“Imagine if you make a perfect soup but your chief chef constantly adds a spoonful of salt in your soup before serving it to the customers thereby ruining your perfect dish to the bewilderment of customers. 
“So, what do you do before his constant alteration gets you fired? 
“Well, one way to go is to put all the ingredients together and put a little salt that is a spoonful less than perfection. 
“So, when your chief chef adds his constant spoonful, the soup gets to the customer as just perfect,
” he said.
Interestingly this is exactly what our brains do, to prevent the domino effect of constantly adding a chemical, it underproduces it in the brain.

So, whenever you take the psychoactive substance, you simply add to it and make a "perfect soup". 
“It is at a point like this that we define "Dependence" (the technical term for addiction) and we gave it that name because the brain now "depends" on the substance to (as it were) function properly,” Dr. Ojediran continued.

“Let me put that in perspective, imagine one day, the chief chef refuses to put his usual spoonful of salt, what will happen to your soup? A total disaster, right? 

“Everyone will complain and the only thing that can appease them is exactly that, ‘a spoonful of salt’.” 
This explains the tragedy of an addict that thinks he can just stop.

The brain has made a sacrifice by rewiring itself to accommodate the substance they take and when they decide to stop on their own, disaster strikes.

They start experiencing strange feelings known as withdrawal symptoms.
In the case of alcohol, these range from involuntary tremor to frank seizure and sometimes coma and before long they find a bottle to fix the problem.

The bad part is that once you reach this stage, you can't just stop on your own, you need professional help and Addiction Psychiatrists are specifically trained to offer this help. 
Don’t take chances with your sanity. Get help fast!

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