Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Can Alcohol Cause Brain Damage

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Medications Used For Alcoholism

Real Question: Can Alcohol Consumption Cause Brain Damage?

Sometimes, behavioral therapies arent always enough to overcome alcoholism. Many specialists will turn to medications to help alleviate some of the symptoms or discourage an individual from drinking. Currently, only three medications exist with U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, and none of these are prescribed to those who are actively drinking. These were designed for those who have already stopped drinking and seeking abstinence.

Which Drugs Kill Brain Cells

Different drugs can have neurotoxic and destructive effects on brain cells. Substances that are associated with neurological damage include but are not limited to alcohol, heroin, amphetamines, marijuana, opioids, inhalants, and cocaine.1,2,5

Drugs can damage brain cells through several mechanisms. Psychostimulants and alcohol disrupt the integrity of the blood-brain barrier , which can change the functioning of your brain cells due to increased permeability . Increased permeability means that toxins can more easily cross the BBB.7

Other substances, including alcohol and inhalants, can cause injury to brain cells due to the way they damage the protective sheaths, known as myelin, that surround nerve fibers. This can cause damage like that which occurs in neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis . This type of damage can affect your thinking, movement, vision, and hearing. The neurological symptoms people experience in this case can range from mild to severe.8,9

How Blood Alcohol Concentration Impairs A Person By Level

Many people do not have a clear understanding of the point at which alcohol poisoning or overdose occurs. They do not know if they should let a friend sleep it off or get medical help.

The National Institutes of Health the level of a persons blood alcohol concentration by behavior to know when a person has reached dangerous amounts of alcohol consumption and may be at risk for an overdose or poisoning. The four levels are:

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Are There Benefits Of Alcohol

With moderate drinking, you may be more likely to engage in healthy activities. Alcohol can improve your ability to concentrate, and this helps you focus on things that are important to you.

Theres also the psychological or social impact. Having a drink while getting together with family and friends can be helpful to relieve stress and promote a sense of well-being.

According to the NIAAA, there is not enough evidence to show that moderate alcohol consumption boosts cognitive function, such as memory or problem-solving skills. However, excessive alcohol consumption is linked with a higher risk of developing dementia and other alcohol-related disorders.

Does Alcohol Kill Brain Cells

2009 05 30 Substance Abuse And Its Deadly Consequences

A common expression to warn people to cut back on harmful behaviors is that they will kill their brain cells. As weve seen earlier, alcohol can fundamentally reshape and rewire the brain, but does it actually kill brain cells themselves?

Research from Harvard Medical School found that drinking damages the brains white matter, or tissue deep inside the brain that helps us process thoughts and governs movement, as well as transmits messages between the nervous system and other regions of the brain.

While Parkinsons Disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure can also damage white matter, alcohol can speed up this cumulative damage. Researchers found that alcohol particularly damaged white matter in parts of the brain that are responsible for controlling impulses, making it less likely that individuals will be able to cut back or quit drinking.

Luckily, researchers did see one glimmer of hope, as it appeared that this damaged white matter could potentially heal if drinkers quit drinking before they reached the age of 50.

While individuals who have consumed alcohol on a chronic basis for many years are at high risk of this type of damage, the risk is not limited to long-term drinkers.

An additional study found that damage to the brains white matter resulted in slower, less efficient thinking which can impact individuals for long periods of time, especially if they sustained alcohol-related damage to their brains at a younger age.

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What Level Of Drinking Can Cause Arbd

Everyone is different and alcohol affects people in different ways, so theres no specific amount or length of time of drinking that will determine whether a person does or doesnt have ARBD. On the other hand, the more someone drinks and the longer the period of time they drink for, the more likely they are to have some form of ARBD.

Research shows that in some cases, men who regularly drink more than 50 units of alcohol a week and women who drink more than 35 units of alcohol a week for a period of five years or more are likely to experience changes in the brain that adversely affect memory or other cognitive processes. In terms of drinks, that equates to 5 bottles of wine or 20 pints of lager in a week for a man, and just less than 3½ bottles of wine or about 14 pints of lager per week for a woman.

The recommended maximum alcohol use for adults in the UK is 14 units per week, ideally spread over three or more days and with at least two alcohol-free days each week.

How Common Is Arbd

There are various statistics on how common ARBD is in the UK, although it is hard to get a totally clear picture:

  • Around 10 million people in the UK regularly drink at above low-risk levels that is, they drink more than 2 to 3 units a day or 14 units a week.
  • Around 0.5% of the UK population have some changes in their brain as a result of their alcohol use.
  • Around 35% of the very heaviest drinkers are thought to have some form of ARBD.
  • Current research suggests that ARBD accounts for 10-24% of all cases of dementia.
  • One of the most extreme forms of ARBD, Wernicke-Korsakoffs Syndrome, is seen in around 12% of dependent drinkers.


have changes in their brain as a result of alcohol use

of the very heaviest drinkers are thought to have some form of ARBD

research suggests that ARBD accounts for 10-24% of all cases of dementia.

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How Alcohol Affects The Brain

Alcohol use reduces brain volume by causing brain cells and cells in their connective tissue to expel water, said James Giordano, PhD, a professor of neurology and biochemistry at the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

What we see is a systemic desiccating effect, but loss of volume doesnt necessarily mean loss of function, he told Healthline. It doesnt mean one drink will be harmful for you. But repeated or high-volume consumption of alcohol is going to have problematic effects.

Kranzler said that while the desiccating effects of alcohol could be the root cause of some of the brain damage observed in the study, researchers also observed changes in the integrity of white matter that are unlikely to be related to dehydration.

The old saying about drinking killing brain cells isnt quite accurate, said Giordano, but it can disrupt their function.

What Should You Do

Alcohol Related Brain Injury | Martin Jackson | Ausmed Lectures

Using alcohol or other drugs after a TBI is risky. Some people keep drinking or using drugs after a TBI and donât want to stop. Others know they should stop or reduce their alcohol or drug use, but they donât know how they may have tried in the past and failed.

If you want to stop using alcohol or other drugs, you have many options. Some people benefit from self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous . Others get help from doctors, psychologists, or counselors with experience treating addiction. Most people who stop using alcohol or drugs do so on their own. Donât doubt your ability to change.

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Ways To Change Cut Down Or Stop Drinking

Some key steps to change, cut down, or stop drinking are as follows:

  • Find people who support you in changing your drinking.
  • Set a specific goal.
  • Spell out how you will meet your goal.
  • Figure out what people, places, things or feelings trigger drinking. Then figure out ways to cope with those triggers ahead of time.
  • Reward yourself for sticking to your plan and meeting your goals.
  • Have a back-up plan if your first plan doesnât work.

If you have questions or concerns about your drinking, information and help are available:

  • Take a confidential, online drinking screening:
  • Talk to your doctor about your alcohol use. They can give you referrals for treatment. They can also prescribe medicines to help you prevent relapse or reduce alcohol cravings. One such medicine is naltrexone .
  • Psychologists or counselors in your TBI rehabilitation program can help you find treatment that is right for you.
  • AA has helped millions of people. You can find meetings in most towns and cities .
  • Moderation Management and SMART Recovery are alternatives to AA that do not use the 12-step model.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a confidential treatment services locator website to help you find a reputable treatment facility near you .

Alcohol And Cognitive Function

  • Alcohol and TBI both affect cognitive skills like memory and flexible thinking .
  • Alcohol may make some of the cognitive problems caused by TBI worse.
  • Alcohol may affect people with TBI more than it did before their TBI.
  • The negative cognitive effects of alcohol can last from days to weeks after drinking stops.
  • Not drinking can keep your cognitive abilities at their best and help you stay sharp and focused.

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Behaviours Linked With Arbi

Those people close to someone with ARBI may face a range of behaviours that cause problems. There are a number of possible causes or reasons for these types of behaviour, including medical problems, memory and thinking problems, physical discomfort, the side effects of medication or fatigue from lack of sleep. Alternatively, behaviours of concern may be a reaction to stress, anxiety, or a change or upset to daily routine.Some common behaviours include:

  • untidiness and poor hygiene habits
  • sexually inappropriate behaviour

Begin The Recovery Process In New Jersey

Infographics show the damage substance abuse can do to the brain

The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper is one of New Jerseys leading alcohol recovery facilities. Were here to guide you or your loved one through the process of detox, helping you to stay safe and healthy while optimizing your comfort. Following detox, we offer modern rehab programs in a relaxing environment where you can learn the best strategies for maintaining sobriety.

Our addiction care experts are committed to your success and can help you gain the tools necessary to achieve long-term sobriety. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you begin your journey to a healthier, alcohol-free life in recovery.

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Alcohol Brain Damagewhat Is Alcoholic Dementia

Excessive drinking over a long period of time can lead to alcoholic dementia . This kind of dementia can also cause memory problems and issues associated with learning and cognition.

It causes neurological damage, having a direct effect on the brain cells which results in various symptoms.

One of the main symptoms associated with alcoholic dementia is Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome – often known as wet brain. This condition really consists of two disorders that may consist together or independently.

  • The first, Wernickes encephalopathy, refers to a combination of abnormal eye movements, confusion, and unsteady gait.
  • The second refers to a set of psychotic symptoms.

It should be noted that alcohol itself does not cause wet brain. Instead, wet brain occurs due to a severe thiamine deficiency. Vitamin B1 helps the brain produce energy from sugar. If there is a consistent deficiency in this vitamin, the brain cells fail to produce enough energy to function appropriately.

Its well-known that alcoholics tend to struggle with nutritional deficiencies. Many people sacrifice healthy diets in exchange for excessive alcohol consumption. Over the long term, this deficiency can lead to disruption within the nerve cells.

Moreover, a lack of vitamin B1 can cause permanent nerve cell damage.

How A Drink Of Alcohol Changes The Brain

The damage alcohol can cause begins with the very first sip you take. The Mayo Clinic reports that alcohol is a neurotoxin, meaning it is considered poisonous to the delicate cells that reside in the nervous system, including the brain. When you drink alcohol, it moves from the digestive system into the bloodstream. From there, it crosses into spaces within the brain, and it causes harm to the cells there.

Alcohols toxicity is responsible, in part, for the symptoms people feel when they drink. A lack of coordination, speech difficulty, and a reduced ability to make sound decisions could all be caused by damaged brain cells, and alcohol directly causes that damage.

The organization Drinkaware also points out that alcohol can reduce the production and/or uptake of chemicals brain cells use to communicate with one another. That reduction in neurotransmitter ability can also help us to feel relaxed and at ease with a drink, but those feelings are caused by damage to brain cells.

These changes are often associated with an episode of drinking, and they do tend to pass when the body has metabolized all of the ingested alcohol. But those who drink repeatedly may develop brain damage that does not go away when sobriety returns.

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How Much Alcohol Consumption Is Too Much

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines low-risk drinking as the consumption of up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. The World Health Organization also recommends that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not drink alcohol at all, and that men should limit their alcohol intake to two drinks per day.

The amount of alcohol in a drink varies between different alcoholic beverages, as well as depending on where you purchase your drink. One beer may have more or less alcohol than another beer depending on the brand and the type of beer.

Symptoms Of Alcohol Brain Damage: Is It Reversible

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After a big glass of wine, almost anyone feels a little warm and wobbly. Those who keep drinking may begin to slur their words, and they may trip and stagger when they walk. Someone who continues to drink may just pass out and cant respond to the outside world at all.

That same person may awaken the next day feeling a little queasy, and that nausea may be accompanied by a terrible headache. In time, those hangover symptoms wear off, and the person is back to normal once more unless scientists look closely at the brain of that person. Long-term, repeated alcohol use can lead to persistent changes within the brain. Those changes can make clear thinking difficult, and in some cases, the damage cannot be reversed.

Other forms of alcohol-related harm can be cured, but it takes time to make the changes felt.

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Alcohol Can Cause A Specific Brain Disease

In addition to causing shrinkage within specific portions of the brain, and sparking the death or damage of some brain cells, alcoholism can also cause deficiencies that can kill brain cells in another manner.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that alcoholism can cause a deficiency in vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. This vitamin is required for optimal brain health, and when it is absent, it can cause a very specific type of brain disease. This Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome can cause short-term symptoms such as confusion or stiff muscles, and if left untreated, it may move into a debilitating form of psychosis that often requires around-the-clock care.

The Alzheimers Association reports that researchers arent sure why alcohol abuse causes a thiamine deficiency, but they suspect it is caused by alcohols impact on the stomach, liver, and other vital organs. It may also be spurred by other health issues, such as anorexia.

What Are The Symptoms

This can vary from person to person, but generally symptoms will include:

  • Impaired ability to learn things
  • Personality changes
  • Problems with memory
  • Difficulty with clear and logical thinking on tasks which require planning, organising, common sense judgement and social skills
  • Problems with balance

Generally skills learned earlier in life and old habits such as language and gestures tend to be relatively unaffected.

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Alcohol And The Teenage Brain

From the age of 12 your brain starts to undergo some radical changes. These continue until you are in your mid 20s.

During this time, the brain is developing more sophisticated abilities and skills.

These changes allow you to act in a more sophisticated way.

They give you the ability to:

  • problem solve
  • make sense of complex information
  • make plans for your future

Teenagers should not drink alcohol during this time. This is because the brain is under construction and being re-coded. Drinking can disrupt this process.

Alcohol use affects many parts of the brain, including:

  • learning
  • remembering
  • problem-solving

The teenage brain is also more likely to become addicted to alcohol than the adult brain. Teenagers who drink before the age of 15 are more likely to misuse alcohol in later life.

Long Term Effects Of Alcohol On The Brain

Infographics show the damage substance abuse can do to the brain

Many long-term effects of alcohol use can cause permanent damage to the brain, as well as to various organs. With intervention, brain damage may be reversible. Alcohols long-term brain impacts include:

  • Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and can damage brain cells. Some of the most dangerous symptoms may include hallucinations and seizures. About 5 percent of those going through withdrawal will experience delirium tremens , the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal.
  • Damage to neurotransmitters slows communication between different areas of the brain and reduces energy levels.
  • Brain shrinkage is caused by a loss of gray matter, which contains cell bodies, and white matter, which controls cell pathways. A 2017 study published in the British Medical Journal is one of many that has identified a correlation between high alcohol consumption and brain shrinkage.
  • Cognitive impairment may affect verbalization, mental processing, memory, learning, concentration, and impulse control. Studies find areas of the brain related to problem solving and impulse control have the highest risk for damage from alcohol. Impairment in this area of the brain may result in alcohol-related dementia.

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