Substance use has serious physical side effects. Drugs and alcohol impact brain health and function. If you or someone you love struggles with addiction, learn what you can do to avoid harm, prevent further damage, and begin to heal.

Alcohol and Brain Damage

Alcohol damages the brain. It has immediate effects on memory, judgment, and coordination. It has long-term effects on brain function. Blackouts are one common effect of drinking too much. They are also a sign of brain damage. You do not have to be dependent on or addicted to alcohol to black out. Anyone who has too much alcohol can experience this form of short-term brain damage.

Other damage related to drinking is cumulative. This means it takes time for this brain damage to become noticeable or to start creating problems in how you think or how your brain works. Even if you think the amount you are drinking is “safe,” you may be causing long-term harm.

Newsweek1 shares a study that found, “Even drinking moderate amounts of alcohol had a negative impact on cognitive function and harmful changes to the brain structure…Moderate drinkers were far more likely to show signs of hippocampal atrophy than light and non-drinkers.”

Drinking does not support long-term health. Bad habits now cause problems later. Alcohol abuse is a serious problem that benefits from immediate, professional treatment.

>>> READ THIS NEXT: Start with Detox

Marijuana and Brain Damage

Like alcohol, marijuana’s legal status and common recreational use leads people to believe it is harmless. Like alcohol, marijuana damages the brain. Marijuana is particularly dangerous for developing, adolescent brains. It changes the brain’s structure and function. Marijuana use alters your internal reward system. It impacts memory and learning.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse2 explains one effect of THC, an active chemical in marijuana: “Memory impairment from marijuana use occurs because THC alters how the hippocampus — a brain area responsible for memory formation — processes information. As people age, they lose neurons in the hippocampus, which decreases their ability to learn new information. Chronic THC exposure may hasten age-related loss of hippocampal neurons.”

Marijuana damages and ages the brain. You can end this and other harmful effects of marijuana abuse by seeking treatment that combines mental and physical health care into a comprehensive recovery program.

Can Brain Damage Be Reversed?

Marijuana and alcohol are often perceived as “safer” drugs, yet they still have profound effects on brain health. Other drugs like opiates, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines cause even greater short and long-term brain damage. However, no matter the extent of your substance abuse, damage caused by any drug can be reversed. Some of it may be permanent, but in recovery, you will find that your thoughts are clearer than ever. You will feel better mentally and physically. Pursuing recovery is always worthwhile.

Finding Substance Abuse Help

It is never too early and never too late to get help. Don’t let addiction continue to rule and ruin your body, your brain, and your life. Protect your or a loved one’s mental and physical health. Reach out to us at 706-914-2327. Black Bear Lodge is a professional drug and alcohol abuse and addiction treatment center located outside of Atlanta. We can answer your questions about treatment and recovery. We offer integrated care for mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Our treatment team specializes in personalized, in-depth care. We offer hope and help. You can heal.


1 Osborne, Hannah. “Alcohol and Brain Damage: Moderate Drinking Linked to Cognitive Decline.” Newsweek. 7 Jun. 2017. Accessed 3 Aug. 2017.

2 National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What Are Marijuana’s Long-Term Effects on the Brain?” Apr. 2017. Accessed 3 Aug. 2017.