Long term heavy drinking may be doing even more damage to brain functions than previously realized.
Addictions professionals and medical personnel have long witnessed the cognitive deficits and even premature dementia induced by years of chronic and heavy drinking, and no one disputes the harm that alcohol does to the mind. Magnetic imaging and autopsy testing has also clearly shown evidence of significant cell death, brain shrinkage, and structural damage in the brains of people who had lived with years of heavy abuse; but new research out of Japan indicates that permanent brain damage may be occurring even in those people who have yet to exhibit any signs of diminished cognitive functioning, or show any physcial or structural changes in the brain.
Researchers out of Keio University compared recovering alcoholics showing no signs of cognitive deficits and with no apparent brain damage, and with an average period of abstinence of 40 months; with a population of never alcohol dependent people. Using brain imaging techniques, and observing blood flow during a mental matching task, the researchers found that key areas of the recovering alcoholic’s brains (including the pre frontal cortex) were receiving less blood during the task than in the brains of the "normal" group of study participants.
The concern is that people yet to show any obvious signs of mental decline, nor exhibit any forms of structural damage (and as such unaware of any neural problems) are in fact sustaining damage and a reduction in mental potential. Essentially, damage is occurring, but people drinking have yet to really notice the damage, and standard diagnostic testing will not spot any physical damage. These latent lesions, as the researchers call them are likely the first stage of alcohol induced brain damage, and since alcoholics don’t realize that they are occurring, they don’t induce people to get help for their drinking. These brain deficits cannot induce sobriety (because people are yet to be aware of the problem) and yet they are only getting worse with time and further abuse.
Heavy drinking is causing brain damage earlier than anyone had ever realized. If you’re drinking heavily, you need to consider treatment help to minimize any potential of neural damage and cognitive declines.