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A Dangerous Path: Heavy Alcohol Use Can Cause Dementia Later in Life

Recent data analysis shows that excessive drinking during the mid-life years can dramatically increase the risk of developing dementia in later years

In the fight against substance abuse and addiction, the biggest and most effective tool that we have is education. Only by showing the negative effects and consequences of drug abuse and alcoholism can we hope to sway people away from that dangerous and deadly path.

For decades, people have been trying to convince themselves that alcohol isn’t really dangerous. Yet, it seems that for every study that promotes the health benefits of alcohol consumption, there are other studies that say just the opposite. The problem is that most of those studies go unnoticed because they don’t tell people what they want to hear, that drinking is just fine. Simply put, it isn’t.

Alcohol is a toxin, which is where the word “intoxicated” comes from. And, putting any amount of a toxin into your body just doesn’t make sense. In fulfilling our commitment to encouraging the general public’s education on the dangers of substance abuse, Best Drug Rehabilitation makes an effort to seek out and promote the science that shows just how bad these toxic substances are for the human body.

Recently, a study has been published in the Oxford Medical Journal that shows a correlation between alcohol abuse in mid-life and the increased occurrence of developing dementia in later years. Data from over 12,000 participants in the population-based Swedish Twin Registry born during 1907-1925 who had responded to alcohol based inquires about consumption levels in 1967/1970 were compared with reported causes of death. Moderate to heavier drinkers, after adjusting the results for socio-demographic, lifestyle and cardiovascular factors, were shown to have a severely increased risk of dementia by 57%, with an earlier onset of almost 5 years, than those who consumed little to no alcohol.

The study concluded that averaging a higher daily consumption of alcohol may lead to the development of dementia, and that genetics seemed not to factor in at all. It recommends reduction, or possibly elimination, of alcohol use as a population-wide intervention strategy. With strong scientific evidence, it is difficult for us to continue trying to convince ourselves that drinking alcohol has any benefits at all.

Alcohol’s Role in the Development of Dementia

According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s webpage alz.org, “Dementia” is a general term that covers several different types of symptoms and syndromes that result from physical changes in the brain, often caused by damage to the brain cells. This damage interferes with the brain cells ability to properly communicate with each other and to carry out their proper functions. Dementia types include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, to name just a few.

Each of the different types of dementia is caused by damage to different areas of the brain or changes in the chemical natures of those areas. For example, the Hippocampus is the region of the brain that is the center of learning and memory, and are often the first to be damaged, which is why memory loss is one of the first symptoms in Alzheimer’s. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is caused by a severe deficiency in vitamin B-1, also known as thiamine, which is necessary for the brain to produce energy from sugar and is most commonly caused by alcohol misuse.

Potential Treatments of Dementia

The treatment solutions for dementia vary with the causes. In the case of most progressive dementias, including Alzheimer’s, there is no known cure and no effective treatment to slow or stop its progress. Most damage to the brain that result in the development of dementia is permanent and irreversible, and only get worse over time. However, sometimes conditions may improve when the effects are caused by depression, side effects of medication, thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies or alcohol abuse. Improvements can only be found when these causes are properly diagnosed and addressed with appropriate treatments. The most effective way to avoid developing dementia is in prevention. In many cases, as is shown by the results of the study published in the Oxford Journals, avoiding consumption of alcohol and other brain altering substances may help protect against developing dementia in later years.

Identifying Possible Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse and addiction in any form can be difficult to identify. Often, those with substance abuse issues have found ways to hide it from others, and even from themselves. In many cases, they have actually gotten quite good at it. If you think that you or someone you know may have a problem with alcohol that needs to be addressed, some of the following guidelines may help in determining if treatment is needed.

  • Are there feelings of guilt, shame or remorse associated with drinking?
  • Is alcohol needed to relax or feel better?
  • Have there been “black-outs” or lapses in memory due to excessive drinking?
  • Are there regularly times where more alcohol was consumed than intended?
  • Are responsibilities being neglected, such as schoolwork, professional obligations or parenting issues due to drinking or being “hung over”?
  • Has alcohol caused risk to personal safety or the safety of others?
  • Have there been repeated legal problems as a result of alcohol related actions?
  • Has there been a loss of willpower or self-control where alcohol is concerned?
  • Has drinking continued even after recognizing that it is causing problems at work or at home?
  • Is the desire to quit drinking overpowered by the desire to continue?
  • Has tolerance level increased, where it takes more and more alcohol to get those desired “feel-good” effects?
  • Are withdrawal symptoms being experienced when alcohol is not consumed?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, it may indicate that there is a substance abuse issue that needs to be addressed. And this list of questions is not restricted to alcohol. Replace the word “drinking” with the word “using”, and replace the word “alcohol” with the word “heroin”, “cocaine”, “pills” or any other drug, and these questions still apply.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any problems with substance abuse, the first step is identifying it. The next step is seeking help.

Seeking Help in Recovery from Substance Abuse

After the first and most important step of identifying and admitting that there is a problem with drug abuse or alcoholism, the next step is finding an effective treatment program. Some people are able to enjoy a successful recovery using outpatient “self-help” recovery programs, such as AA or NA. Far too often, however, the people who use only 12-Step programs or outpatient treatment don’t stay clean. Many relapse and never find their way back to the healthier path of recovery. Without proper guidance and a calm, serene environment to focus on the treatment program, many people are doomed to continue in the vicious cycle of relapse and recovery.

Best Drug Rehabilitation has found what we believe to be a better way. Our recovery program is designed to be a complete lifestyle transformation, addressing not just the symptoms of addiction but the underlying causes. Beginning with our medically supervised detox clinic, we focus intensively on repairing the damage done to the body by weeks, months or even years of substance abuse. Through the encouragement of regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet, our patients find that, when they feel physically better, they can concentrate more clearly on their recovery process.

The next part of our recovery strategy is found in the various program options that we offer for our patients to choose from. We understand that every patient is different, and no two patients will respond in the same way to any particular treatment modality. Rather than lock them into one method of treatment, we allow them a certain level of freedom in choosing the direction that they will take on the path to recovery. The ultimate goal is a lifestyle free from drugs and alcohol, but we believe that there are more ways than one to reach that goal. This gives our patients a sense of confidence and an understanding of the personal responsibility that they hold in maintaining their sobriety. They discover that the strength and ability to remain drug and alcohol free rests, ultimately, in their hands alone.

From our medically supervised detox clinic to our extensive aftercare department, which assists our patients in finding sober living arrangements and local support groups, Best Drug Rehabilitation is committed to helping our patients in every way that we can with every step that they take on the path to recovery. If you or someone you know needs help in overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol, please, don’t hesitate. Call us today.

5 Comments

  • Angie

    I really like that Best Drug Rehabilitation has several different programs that one can chose to do after you have done the detoxification process. I strongly believe that there is no one size fits all approach, and that each person has their own root reasons for turning to substance or alcohol to handle their issues. I love that Best Drug is committed to helping their patients get to the bottom of their addictions and has a wonderful after care program. Too many people assume that after rehab, they can handle it on their own, and that isn’t the case, it takes a lot of support and continually working to keep yourself from relapsing.

  • Amanda

    This is a very interesting viewpoint. I had family with dementia and it a very difficult disease to deal with and it is very hard to watch a love one just fade away in front of you. But to see that studies are pointing toward alcohol abuse I think can give a hope in helping people prevent from going to that state. I think finding the signs of alcohol abuse and being brave enough to offer help or even ask for it your self are the biggest steps toward handling. I think a place like the Best Drug Rehabilitation provides real answers and with real solutions. Being able to know the cause of a mysterious disease and have prevention methods to handle is so incredible to me.

  • Diane C

    Whoa, I knew that continuous drinking over a long period of time has bad effects on the body and that those who drink heavily don’t do well in life and gradually decline until they can’t take care of themselves anymore. I never thought about drinking causing dementia but it does make sense, It’s good that Best Drug Rehab exists to help these people before things get that far. The fact that you also tailor the program to the individual very good. Helping the person get through their addiction and back on their feet as a contributing member of society again is a really good thing,

  • Walter

    Wow this is enlightening. It also makes a lot of sense that heavy periods of drinking would lead to problems later in life due to the destruction of the brain tissue from consuming alcohol. I know for a fact that drinking a lot leads to the loss of motor function and the loss of activity of the brain, and it makes since when you are tracing back a condition such as dementia to these factors as alcohol and other drugs directly influence the brain and cause it to not work the way it is intended to do. I can also see how the studies that show you should drink are outweigh the other studies, but that just sounds like some vested interests talking.

    The signs of a serious drinking problem were also enlightening. I know first hand as I experienced most of them when I was coming off of drinking lots of alcohol over a long period of time. I can also vouch for the datum on the B-1 as I have mentioned that to people who were experiencing mild symptoms of coming off of alcohol and it helped them tremendously. I am glad that BDR is putting this information out there for the general public to see and I hope that a lot of people are able to read this message and find some help for whatever problem that they are experiencing in life, as drinking lots of alcohol is definitely not the answer.

  • Jonathan

    I like this article as it focuses on the facts and statistics rather than beating a dead horse with the saying “drinking is bad for you”. It does say that but it explains it as well as backs it up with statistics.

    It’s interesting how this article just focuses on the health aspect of dementia and makes a very good point on just how alcohol affects you in this way. The datum that really sticks out to me is that it is an increased staggering 57% chance to be open to dementia at an earlier rate of 5 years than those that didn’t drink. That datum is almost enough to shock me into not drinking at all. At least it keeps me in line and not have any wild drinking nights.

    I like how the article goes into empowering you with the knowledge of the different brain disorders which can not only result from alcohol abuse but other things as well.

    I am pretty sure Best Drug Rehabilitation’s process of rehab is unique in that I haven’t seen many other drug rehabilitation facilities like this and almost none that designs a program specifically for each individual. I am sure that is why they have such a high success rate,

    Lastly, this article pushes educating people which I believe is the most important thing as if a person is given the information to evaluate, he can make the best decision for him as every person is a different case.

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