Alcohol-induced brain damage continues up to six weeks after stopping drinking, experts have warned.
It’s well known that excessive boozing isn’t good for the brain but up until now, little was understood about how long it takes to repair itself after going sober.
Booze danger greater than first thought
Scientists in Alicante, Spain and Mannheim in Germany have now found that the brain continues to be damaged for longer than previously thought. Their findings were published in JAMA Psychiatry.
They scanned the brains of 90 volunteer patients who were staying in a rehabilitation unit in a German hospital.
With an average age of 46, the patients had been hospitalized because of an alcohol issue.
Scientists compared their results with those of 36 men without booze problems.
Damage progresses over time
Dr. Santiago Canals, of the Institute of Neurosciences CSIC-UMH, who has coordinated the research said: “Until now, nobody could believe that in the absence of alcohol the damage in the brain would progress.”
He highlighted that: “An important aspect of the work is that the group of patients participating in our research are hospitalized in a detoxification program and their consumption of addictive substances is controlled, which guarantees that they are not drinking any alcohol.
“Therefore, the abstinence phase can be followed closely.”
The damage observed during the sober period tended to affect the frontal area and right hemisphere of the brain.
That goes against the commonly held belief that damage starts to be reversed once people give up booze.
The scientists are now trying to really understand the extent of the damage in order to do more research on how widespread it becomes in the early days of sobriety.
It’s worth saying that this study is looking specifically at alcoholics so we’re not talking about the odd glass of vino here or there.
But it’s still interesting to note that our brains may not recover quite as fast as we all thought.