We’ve all seen how alcohol can affect people physically. They may stumble and slur their words when they begin drinking. With long-term use, they may suffer from disorders that affect different parts of the body, including the liver.

Alcohol and drugs affect more than a person physically. They can have profound impacts on a person’s brain. People drink for different reasons, and alcohol can affect different people in different ways.

Judith Grisel is a neuroscientist with extensive experience studying the effects of alcohol and drugs on the brain. A former addict herself, Grisel has unique perspectives about the effects of such substances.

Talking with Terry Gross on the radio program Fresh Air, Dr. Grisel discussed binge drinking, or drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time. She said that it’s “not only how much you drink, but the pattern of how you drink.”

Binge drinking patterns can be particularly dangerous for some people, including women. Women “metabolize alcohol less well than men,” said Grisel, so the “same amount of alcohol affects women more.”

A binge-drinking man who drinks five or six beers may be slightly buzzed or not feel the effects of the beer. A woman who has had the same amount may be drunk, especially if she is not accustomed to drinking alcohol or is drinking on an empty stomach.

“Women don’t need to drink as much to have a bad effect,” said Grisel. She noted that women and men appear to drink for different reasons and that women may drink to alleviate anxiety or depression. She said that when she began drinking as a teenager, she felt less anxious and more secure.

Even if alcohol does make people feel better, it’s just temporary. People only feel the effects of alcohol or drugs for a short amount of time. If they continue to drink, they could be risking long-term damage for short-lived feelings. They could be damaging their brains. Such effects illustrate the importance of seeking assistance to treat alcohol or drug abuse.

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