Understanding the Different Stages of Alcoholism and Abuse Part I

No one turns around one day and is suddenly an alcoholic. Alcoholism is progressive, with the addiction becoming more destructive over time. The speed of progression is different for each individual, and some fall deeper into the addiction before deciding to get help. After treatment, many dependent drinkers can look and see that they went through several distinct stages in their drinking. This blog will look at the early signs and stages of alcoholism.

Alcohol Abuse

In American society, it is socially acceptable to drink alcohol on a regular basis. It’s even considered a rite of passage to drink heavily during your teens and early twenties. This leads to a lack of understanding about just how damaging alcohol can be. It makes it easy to become a heavy drinker without even considering that it could become a problem.

Women who consume more than three drinks in a day and men who consume more than four are, by definition, heavy drinkers. So are binge drinkers who have more than seven per week for women or fourteen per week for men.

How Alcohol Affects the Brain: Part II

A lot of people think they know the effects that long-term alcohol dependence has on the brain. Many of their ideas are wrong. Alcohol consumption, in most cases, does not cause permanent defects in reasoning, memory, or other forms of cognition. After a couple years of sobriety, this functioning returns to normal. However, there are two main exceptions, when long-term damage can be severe and life altering. The first is Wernicke’s Korsakoff Syndrome.

Wernicke’s Korsakoff Syndrome

More commonly known as “wet brain,” this syndrome is actually caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. It happens to people who are long-term alcohol dependent because alcohol blocks the absorption of thiamine. This syndrome arrives in two stages. The first is Wernicke’s encephalopathy, which causes a number of serious neurological problems, such as muscle spasms, paralysis of the eye muscles, and general confusion. During this stage, the disorder can be reversed with thiamine supplementation. But, if no one intervenes, it progresses quickly into Korsakaff psychosis, which is incurable.

At this stage, the individual experiences permanent memory loss and confabulation (creation of new but untrue memories), learning problems, hallucinations, unsteadiness on his or her feet and dementia. It’s ideal to catch the disorder before it gets this far, but, sadly, this is not often the reality.

To prevent either stage from happening, problem drinkers need to watch their vitamin B intake.

How Alcohol Affects the Brain

There is no doubt that alcohol has an affect on the brain. It’s both why people drink it, for the most part, and why it can be so harmful. To understand how alcohol affects the brain, you have to know a little bit about the structure of the brain itself.

The brain consists of several different sections that control different aspects of what makes you human. They include:

· The cortex, in charge of judgment and reasoning
· The cerebellum, responsible for balance and coordination
· The hypothalamus, that regulates appetite, temperature, pain, and emotions
· The amygdala, for regulating social behavior
· The hippocampus, the center of memory and learning