Alcohol is consumed worldwide by adults. Though okay in moderation for adults, its overuse or chronic use harms humans and their bodies. They can have either or both acute and chronic brain damage, and in many severe cases, these are not reversible. Though banned for adolescents, there have been innumerable instances where children have also consumed alcohol knowingly or accidentally.
Alcohol And Its Brain Damage
Alcohol intoxication negatively impacts the brain, and brain health suffers. In the initial few pegs, the drinker feels elated and euphoric, and hidden desires surface. But as the pegs increase, more destructive effects on the brain unfold. These include slurring speech, blurring of vision, imbalance of gait and movements, difficulty walking, blunting response times, and deranged memory. Additionally, they witness Blackouts; the person remembers nothing about the events.
In acute cases, these problems resolve, but in chronic drinkers, these effects persist even for months after they attain sobriety.
These long-term effects might be merely some memory lapses of mild severity. But in some, it could lead to permanent brain damage requiring custodial care.
Factors Influencing The Brain Damage Of Alcohol
Several factors determine how much brain damage occurs in a person. These are:
1. Amount of drinks per day
2. Duration of drinking
3. Age at which first drink was taken
4. Gender of the person, Age, family history, and genetic background. Women are more vulnerable to blackouts and memory impairments.
5. Whether the person had prenatal alcohol exposure from their mother’s drinking
6. And, Other co-morbid conditions in the person.
The brain damage in chronic drinkers may be severe and permanent. And it may be a direct effect of alcohol on the brain or an indirect impact from severe liver disease secondary to prolonged overconsumption of alcohol.
Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome And Liver Disease
The Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is seen in as many as 80% of alcoholics and is severe brain damage secondary to thiamine or vitamin B1 deficiency due to poor nutrition. This may be Wernicke’s encephalopathy or Korsakoff’s psychosis. There is mental confusion, nerve palsies, and incoordination in encephalopathy, and in Korsakoff’s psychosis, there are persistent memory and learning problems.
Additionally, liver damage is invariably observed with chronic overuse of alcohol. And this liver malfunction leads to the accumulation of ammonia and hepatic encephalopathy. As a result, conscious level, sleep, mood, and personality are disturbed.
Treatment of Alcohol’s Brain Damage
The most important thing is to stop alcohol and prevent further damage—thiamine supplements in high doses and removal of ammonia from the body help. Additionally, artificial liver and liver transplantation can overcome the problems due to a failed liver.
The developing brain is susceptible to damage, so pregnant mothers should avoid alcohol consumption during pregnancy. If the pregnant lady continues to have alcohol, fetal alcohol syndrome results. The baby born will have physical, mental, cognitive, and behavioral issues that would be permanent and irreversible. There is no cure for it, and the child might even require custodial care throughout their life. Hence doctors should discourage pregnant mother’s from taking alcohol. They should counsel them on it and talk about the permanent damage of those drinks on the baby’s well-being and health.
Chronic alcoholics require proper support to overcome addiction and return to normal with as minor damage as possible. They need encouragement and psychological and moral assistance at all times. Some may even require financial backing and job assurances to get on track again. Alcoholics Anonymous is an organization that looks into the care, support, and rehabilitation of such chronic alcoholics. It has helped many such ‘tipsy’ drinkers to return to family and social life and attain normalcy in life.