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Irreversible brain damage from alcohol addiction

Irreversible brain damage from alcohol addiction

February 03 | By Rachael

Due to its widespread use, alcohol has become one of the most commonly abused substances in the last decade. Excessive alcohol consumption over a long period or on a certain occasion alters the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain and enhance pleasurable feelings, which can only be satisfied with more alcohol. Gradually, a person develops tolerance to alcohol, which eventually leads to alcohol dependence.

According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 26.9 percent of 18-year-old Americans admitted to binge drinking in one month. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more drinks for males within two hours. About seven percent confessed to heavy alcohol consumption. The survey also showed an increasing number of under-age drinking in America and rising number of preventable deaths due to alcohol problems.

Alcohol abuse can cause severe damage to the brain in various ways, in both men and women. It affects the nervous system by changing brain cell metabolism and blood supply within the brain. It can also cause thiamine or vitamin B1 deficiency, which is an important nutrient required by the brain. It is estimated that about 80 percent of alcohol abusers suffer from thiamine deficiency.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome: Effects beyond imagination

Long-term and heavy alcohol consumption can lead to a serious brain disorder known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS). The syndrome causes serious damage to the nerves in the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. It is a disease that consists of two separate syndromes: a short-lived condition called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and a long-lasting condition known as Korsakoff’s psychosis.

Wernicke’s encephalopathy is characterized by mental confusion, oculomotor disruptions (impaired eye movement) and muscle coordination difficulty. Not all patients exhibit all the symptoms but presence of even one must be taken into account while diagnosing the problem. Usually, the symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy appear first. As these symptoms vanish, those of Korsakoff’s psychosis begin to surface. Approximately, 80 to 90 percent of alcohol-dependent people suffering from Wernicke’s encephalopathy develop Korsakoff’s psychosis. This is a chronic and debilitating syndrome characterized by persistent learning and memory problems and hallucinations.

Damaging effects of thiamine deficiency and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome can be treated by replacing thiamine through vitamin B1 injections into the muscle or vein or through tablets. However, only absolute abstinence from alcohol supplemented with a well-balanced diet can reverse the ill effects of prolonged alcohol abuse.

Long periods of alcohol consumption also increase the risk of other problems such as damage to heart muscles, frontal lobe dysfunction (affecting cognitive, emotional and interpersonal activities), peripheral neuropathy (disrupting flow of signals between the body, spinal cord and the brain), and brain shrinkage. Even the body experiences complications of liver such as alcohol hepatitis and cirrhosis; cancers of mouth, throat and pancreas; high blood pressure and weakened immune system.

Recovery road map

The human brain is one of the most sensitive and important organs of the body. Very few people understand the impact that alcohol can have on the brain. Moreover, stigma attached to alcoholism prevents people from seeking treatment. Delaying treatment can accumulate toxins in the body that can cause permanent damage.

If you know someone who is looking for state-of-the-art facilities in addiction treatment in Colorado, contact the Colorado Alcohol Addiction Help representatives. You can also call the 24/7 helpline number 866-592-9261 or chat online with our experts to get more information on alcohol addiction treatment in Colorado.

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