A Dangerous Path: Heavy Alcohol Use and Dementia
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. But what exactly is the correlation between heavy alcohol use and dementia?
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.
Studies on Alcohol Use and Dementia
Alcohol is a toxin 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 heavy alcohol use and dementia developing 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 inquiries 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. This study proves that heavy alcohol use and dementia do have a connection.
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 the correlation between heavy alcohol use and dementia. 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.
Heavy Alcohol Use and Dementia – The Role Alcohol Plays
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 is often the first to be damaged, which is why memory loss is one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is caused by a severe deficiency of 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 for 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 results in the development of dementia is permanent and irreversible and only gets 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. Again, heavy alcohol use and dementia go hand-in-hand. 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 individuals 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 Recovery Program
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.