Alcohol Induced Dementia
In an episode of the TV series Criminal Minds, the wife of one of the profilers has been murdered by a serial killer. The victim’s father blames his son-in-law for her death. Later, the victim’s father learns that he is suffering from dementia, but is almost happy about it since it means he will forget about his daughter and what happened to her. This short account illustrates the horror of what happens to victims of dementia. The loss of memory reaches the point that they forget even the people closest to them. Dementia is generally the result of unknown factors, but alcohol abuse can result in dementia as well. Moderate or heavy drinking cause damage to the brain and cause the body to have difficulty with the processing of thiamine. These two factors, brain damage and thiamine issues, are at the heart of alcohol induced dementia.
What is Alcohol Induced Dementia?
Alcohol induced dementia results from damage done to the brain by alcohol and damage done to the body’s ability to process vitamin B-1, commonly known as thiamine. In general, the symptoms of dementia, including alcohol induced dementia, are:
- Memory Loss
- Difficulty communicating, solving problems, planning or reasoning
- Loss of motor function
- Depression or Anxiety
- Changes in Behavior or Personality
Drugs and alcohol kill brain cells faster than aging does. Heavy drinkers are 3 times more likely than those who are not heavy drinkers to suffer from some form of dementia by the time they are 65 years old. Because alcohol affects women more than men, they also suffer its negative effects more than men. People who are heavy drinkers in midlife or older are more likely to suffer from alcohol-induced dementia, due in part to fact that heavy drinking prevents neurons from regenerating and disturbs the processing of thiamine. About 78% of people diagnosed with Alcohol Abuse Disorder are also diagnosed with some kind of brain pathology.
Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is the most common form of alcohol related dementia. Wernicke’s encephalology, which negatively effects coordination and movement and Korsakoff’s dementia, which negatively effects memory and learning, are both caused by a deficiency in thiamine. Either disorder may appear separately or both may appear together. Alcohol prevents the proper processing of thiamine. This syndrome may or may not clear up if the victim stops drinking, depending on the severity of the damage that has already been done to the brain. Victims of dementia who continue drinking will likely suffer from increasingly worse dementia.
While it is a form of dementia, alcohol induced dementia is distinct from the more commonly known Alzheimer’s Disease. The first step in treatment is, of course, that the victim cease using alcohol. Since alcohol has a negative impact on the body’s ability to absorb and process certain vitamins and minerals, it is also important to adopt a healthier diet and take nutrients. Depending on the degree of damage to the brain, these steps may or may not result in improvement to alcohol induced dementia. It is very important that the victim of alcohol induced dementia remain abstinent from alcohol. To this end, the person in treatment may need counseling, skills to resist the craving for alcohol, and participation in a self-help group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Dementia and Alcohol
Any form of dementia is a very emotionally painful disease both for the victim and for their close friends and family. One form of dementia that is caused by alcohol abuse can be treated with varying degrees of success. Fortunately, restricting alcohol use to a minimum can prevent the development of alcohol induced dementia. Because the damage to the brain that is caused by alcohol gets worse as alcohol abuse continues, the sooner the person stops drinking the less damage will be done to the brain. Today is the day to stop drinking, whether no damage is yet apparent or damage has begun to impact brain function. Don’t stop someday. Stop now.
For more information and to learn about treatment, contact our helpline at 855-216-0376. Call us anytime (available 24/7), and get the help you need.