TERATOGENIC EFFECT OF ALCOHOL ON BRAIN AND BEHAVIOR1
Teratogenic Effect ofAlcohol on Brain and Behavior
According toHedges & Burchfield (2006), approximatelytwo-thirds of Americans drink alcohol, and about 15-20% of this groupare dependent on it. The consumption of alcohol by pregnant women hasadverse effects on their unborn babies. Research shows that childrenwhose mother consumed alcohol when they were pregnant with themsuffer from various cognitive problems such as deficits in memory andlearning. Besides, such children also experience alcohol-relatedbehavior changes such as impulsivity and hyperactivity, alcohol anddrug abuse, and poor socialization and communication skills. Thebrain of children who were exposed to alcohol before their birth alsodiffers substantially compared to that of their counterparts whosemothers did not consume alcohol when they were pregnant with them.Areas where these brain changes are realized include cerebellum,callosum, hippocampus, and basal ganglia (Mattson,et al., 2001).
The most serious effect of alcohol exposure to unborn children is thedevelopment of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This syndrome ischaracterized by a distinctive pattern of unusual facial features andgrowth deficiency. FAS manifests itself in the form of centralnervous system disorder. Apart from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, there areother conditions that result from alcohol consumption by pregnantwomen. These conditions include Fetal Alcohol Effect, PrematureExposure to Alcohol, and Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopment Disorder.The only way to differentiate between children suffering from FAS andthose with other conditions also related to prenatal exposure toalcohol is the IQ test. According toMattson, et al., (2001), children suffering from FAStypically have an IQ that ranges from intellectually deficient (lessthan 70) to average (between 90 and 109). On the other hand, childrenwith other disorders have an IQ that is relatively higher compared tothose with FAS. Also, children with FAS face a huge challenge whenmemorizing verbal and nonverbal information (Mattson,et al., 2001). Children prenatally exposed to alcoholalso exhibit several maladaptive behaviors. These behaviors includealcohol and drug use, hyperactivity, delinquency, impulsivity, anddisruptive behaviors.
Alcohol addiction is closely related to aggression both towardsothers and against one`s self. Besides, alcohol addicts are morelikely to experience suicidal thoughts(Mattson, et al., 2001).When an addict lowershis/her level of alcohol intake or discontinues altogether, such anindividual may suffer from the Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. Some ofthe symptoms of this condition include elevated blood pressure,confusion, nausea, seizures, hallucination and even death(Hedges & Burchfield, 2006). Malnutrition hindersthe treatment of alcoholism. Some of the diseases that may affectalcohol addicts who also suffers from malnutrition include alcoholicpellagra, thyroid abnormalities, and thiamine deficiencies(Hedges & Burchfield, 2006).
The course materials were very insightful on the effects of alcoholconsumptions by pregnant women on their unborn babies. On this note,I learnt that some alcohol addicts have little control over theiraddiction since they were prenatally exposed to the drug. As such, Ishould not view everybody who drinks as having made a personal chooseto do so. Besides, I learnt that some people have little control overbehaviors such as impulsivity and delinquency. I also learnt thatmalnutrition hampers treatment of alcoholism. This means that whendealing with an alcoholic, I need to ensure that he/she adhere toproper dietary practices to avoid certain complications. Besides, theinformation from the course readings will help me differentiatebetween people suffering from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and those withother disorders caused by being prenatally exposed to alcohol. Also,the course readings informed me on how to know that a person issuffering from withdraw symptoms if he/she cut on his alcoholconsumptions or ceases from drinking altogether. This will help meprovide first aid to such a person, call for medical help, or advisehim/her to seek the services of a doctor. Besides, I have learnt thatsome addicts, particularly those who were prenatally exposed toalcohol may have problems remembering things. As such, when workingwith such people, I will seek to apply other methods of remindingthem such as by writing down instructions for them or making a callto remind them of our meetings.
Hedges, D., &Burchfield, C. (2006). Mind,brain, and drug: an introduction to psychopharmacology.Pearson Education, Inc.
Mattson, S.N., Schoenfeld, A. M., & Riley, E. P. (2001). Teratogenic effectsof alcohol on brain and behavior. Accessedon October 7, 2016. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-3/185-191.htm