18 Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms, Quit Alcohol Addiction & Treatment Strategies

Brain Damage in the Alcoholic Patient

Brain Damage in the Alcoholic Patient

The reason why alcoholic patients have so many alcohol withdrawal symptoms is not only chemical. There are also changes in the structure of the brain. Chronic alcohol use triggers neuronal death in different regions of the brain. The most commonly affected neurons are larger neurons, and the brain’s white matter reduces volume. This is more apparent in the cerebellum and cortex and compromises the normal function of these structures. When brain damage reaches the hypothalamus and deep areas of the cerebellum and cortex, patients start displaying decision-making problems and changes in their behavior. Such changes can be permanent. So, depending on each patient, there is a possibility that even after going through alcohol withdrawal syndrome, they may not return to being exactly who they were before becoming addicted to alcohol.

There is also a nerve condition in these patients called alcoholism-related polyneuropathy. It is caused by vitamin B1 deficiency for a very long time, which is very common in patients with alcoholism. It progresses into the degeneration of neurons and causes edema in some brain areas.

Luckily, not all brain changes are irreversible. After going through withdrawal syndrome and recovering from alcoholism, patients can recover from some types of transient brain damage. For example, volume changes in some brain areas can recover with abstinence. Some cognitive impairments improve significantly, too.

Your recovery will likely depend on how many years you have had with alcohol addiction and your age. Younger patients are more likely to improve in visual-spatial functions as compared to older alcoholics.

Written by Greg M. Wilcox

With a background in medical research, I'm dedicated to unraveling the complexities of health and nutrition in a way that's easy to understand and implement. From debunking myths to sharing science-backed insights, my goal is to guide you on a journey towards optimal well-being.