Does Alcohol Kill Brain Cells?

If you’re like most people, you’ve had at least one person say to you, “Don’t drink alcohol, it’ll kill your brain cells!” Most of us first heard it sometime around high school, and often as a scare tactic from concerned parents.

Considering that when people drink, they can slur their words, lose their balance, say and do strange things, have blackouts (where they don’t remember what happened) and pass out, it makes sense why the killing brain cells theory was so easy to accept by previous generations. But is this theory even true?

While alcohol can damage vital organs in the body, it does not kill brain cells – that is an “old wives’ tale” brought to us during U.S. Prohibition, according to YouTube’s SciShow.


Around the time that the 18th Amendment was passed, the American Temperance movement spread a rumor about how alcohol killed brain cells. Since drunkards acted silly, said strange things, forgot what they said or did, and passed out in all kinds of places, this rumor was not only widely accepted, it spread through our communities like wildfire. Funny thing was, there was zero scientific research at the time to back the rumor up.

From that point forward, people believed that alcohol killed brain cells until 1993, 60 years after the Prohibition Act was repealed. That’s when scientific research concluded without a doubt that alcohol did not kill brain cells.

How did the researchers arrive at this conclusion? They compared the brain cells of alcoholics with the brain cells of non-drinkers and they were not able to find any notable differences.


When alcohol reaches the brain, it does do something: It damages connective tissue at the end of neurons, thereby disabling its function. In effect, communication along the neurons is interrupted making it harder for the person to focus or complete even simple tasks.

According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol:

  • Is a neurotoxin that disrupts communications in the brain,
  • Affects the functions of the brain cells directly and indirectly,
  • Can cause birth defects,
  • Causes different symptoms depending on the area of the brain affected,
  • Can cause developmental disorders in babies, and
  • Can lead to seizures, stroke and dementia when it’s abused.

The human body is incredibly resilient and for the most part, forgiving when we indulge in alcohol on occasion. A night of heavy drinking usually does minor damage and does not result in cell death.

While alcohol doesn’t kill brain cells, it certainly kills people, whether from alcoholism or drunk driving accidents. So, if you’re going to indulge, go right ahead, but like everything in this world, do it in moderation and if you’re going to drive, call Uber or Lyft!

Need an Orange County DUI attorney? Call today for a free consultation!

Related Posts
  • How Will a DUI Impact Your Insurance Rates? Read More
  • Ultimate Guide to DUI Court Procedures Read More
  • 4 Types of DUI Charges Read More