Can The Brain Recover From Long-Term Alcohol Use?Nov 15th, 2011 | By Dr. Jeffrey Huttman Ph.D. | Category: Featured Florida Drug Rehab Treatment Articles, Healthy Sobriety
Long-term alcohol abuse and alcoholism can lead to a variety of harmful effects on the health, including tremors, hallucinations and damage to vital organs. Over time, prolonged alcohol use can also have a detrimental effect on the brain—one that may or may not be reversible after alcohol consumption has ceased.
Research shows that chronic alcoholism damages the cerebellum, the part of the brain that regulates motor control, attention and language. In addition, alcoholism can cause the brain’s prefrontal cortex to shrink and even degrade, which can impact a person’s social behavior and decision-making skills. The white matter of the brain, which connects these two regions, may also be damaged by long-term alcohol consumption.
Is the damage reversible? Richard Ridderinkhof, professor of neurocognitive development and aging at the University of Amsterdam, said in a Scientific American article that research shows mixed results.
Several studies show that, after years of abstaining from alcohol, affected brain regions may return to their original volume. Additionally, neural connections may be repaired.
“Much of this restoration occurs in the system most adversely affected by chronic alcoholism—the frontocerebellar circuitry, which regulates decision making, reasoning and problem solving,” according to Scientific American.
Yet other studies have shown that chronic alcohol use creates sustained injury in certain areas of the brain, and those injuries aren’t repaired even after a long period of abstinence. Some alcoholics may experience permanent damage to the brain’s hippocampus, which regulates long-term memory and spatial navigation.
Despite the mixed results, Dr. Ridderinkhof says “we display at least some ability to recover from the effects of excessive drinking.”
If you know someone who abuses alcohol or is an alcoholic, let the individual know that treatment programs are available to not only help with sobriety, but that also serve as a crucial step in preventing further brain damage and other adverse health effects.