Alcohol abuse not only causes physical damage but also has a significant negative impact on the brain, leading to problems in movement, speech, memory or judgment. Among other detrimental consequences, alcohol has been known to shrink the brain to a great extent. This is the reason why people battling with alcoholism suffer a major setback in their memory and learning, with most of them facing a great difficulty in recalling names or important incidences. When consumed in excessive quantities or when consumed rapidly on an empty stomach, alcohol can result in a blackout, wherein the intoxicated person is unable to recollect even the most important activities or events.
Studies have shown that alcohol blocks the chemical signals exchanged between the brain cells (neurons), which further leads to impulsive behavior, slurred speech, poor memory and slowed reflexes. However, good news is that a complete abstinence from drinking can actually reverse the damage to the brain caused by a prolonged alcohol use.
A 2012 study done by researchers at the Central Institute of Mental Health, in Germany, revealed that brain of a person suffering from alcohol addiction can return to the normal size within 14 days of detoxification. However, the long-term contraction and expansion of the brain can lead to a permanent damage, said the study. However, decline in higher cognitive functions, such as divided attention, due to a chronic abuse of alcohol took a longer time to recover.
Detoxification helps in rapid recovery of the brain
Published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, the study found that the brain shrinkage takes place primarily due to the dehydration caused by alcohol. As a result, not only there is a reduction in the brain matter but also an increase in the cerebrospinal fluid (fluid that provides cushion to the brain). These conditions have been linked with “neuropsychological deficits such as memory loss, concentration deficits and increased impulsivity”, added the study.
As part of the study, the researchers examined 49 patients (including 40 men and 9 women) with a problem of alcohol abuse. The participants were put through two brain scans: first within 24 hours of detoxification and second after two weeks of the supervised abstinence. “We found evidence for a rather rapid recovery of the brain from alcohol-induced volume loss within the initial 14 days of abstinence,” said, Gabriele Ende, a professor of medical physics in the neuroimaging department at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Germany.
The study also discovered that while the ability to recover from chronic alcohol abuse was better in some parts of the brain than the other, there was a reduction in the volume of the cerebellum at the time of detoxification. Notably, the function of the cerebellum is to carry out motor coordination and fine-tuning of the motor skills. Precisely, the study gave a ray of hope to a number of people fighting alcohol abuse, proving that even a short-term abstinence can improve the brain function and offer the ability to tread the path of sobriety.
Seeking professional help
Currently, most of the alcohol programs tend to deal with the withdrawal stage of abstinence from alcohol. However, taking cue from the above, it has become important for doctors and medical professionals at rehab centers to design the detox program in a manner that it supports the patient for a minimum of two weeks. Therefore, it is important to seek medical help and undergo detoxification, in case somebody is suffering from alcohol addiction.
If you know someone battling with an addiction to any substance, such as alcohol or drugs, contact the California Detox Helpline to find state-of-the-art rapid detox centers in California. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-682-0103 or chat online with our treatment advisors for more details about alcohol treatment centers in California.