Can Alcoholic Dementia Be Reversed?

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Can Alcoholic Dementia Be Reversed?

The body is just like a machine that is subject to the natural course of wear and tear. Its rapid deterioration may be attributed to poor nutrient intake or abusive conduct such as excessive drinking of alcohol or puffing cigarettes.

The human body has its central processing unit (CPU), which is the brain. This human CPU may be damaged when deprived of some nutritional value such as thiamine or vitamin B.

It is damaged by some toxic residue from the alcohol brought to the brain through the bloodstream.

Usually, forgetfulness may be linked to “old age”. However, there are instances when this act of “forgetfulness” is not just due to old age but a by-product of excessive drinking of intoxicating drink.

There are medical terms associated with this memory disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease and alcohol dementia.

However, both have different causes but still affect the memory and the person’s cognitive ability.

Treating alcoholic dementia the earliest time possible is the key to reversing it successfully.

Nature of Alcoholic dementia

This is the kind of disease that affects the person’s mental abilities and directly links to the excessive drinking of alcohol.

Hence, the term alcohol dementia is usually experienced by those who have been into excessive drinking for the past years. It usually occurs in the age bracket of 40 years old and upwards.

Scientific studies show that the brain usually functions if replenished with an adequate supply of certain vitamins such as vitamin B and thiamine. The lack of it may lead to some neurocognitive disorders.

The excessive consumption of alcohol by the body depletes the absorption of thiamine. For this reason, there will be an inadequate supply of thiamine to the brain.

The inadequate supply of thiamine and other vitamins, which has been affected by the massive alcohol intake, will eventually cause damage to the brain cells.

This affects the person's sense of reasoning, judgment, difficulty making decisions, and lack of insight and foresight.

Symptoms of Alcohol Dementia

External manifestations are exhibited by an individual having alcohol dementia, such as the sudden change in the person's personality, difficulty adapting, and learning new things.

There is a problem in remembering things, inability to have logical thinking such as organizing and planning.

There's also a noticeable lack of initiative and spontaneity, an inability to maintain balance when it comes to posture.

Eventually, there is difficulty in establishing interpersonal relationships.

However, specific skills obtained and learned during his or her early days, such as mannerism, gestures, and language, are not affected and still can maintain a conversation and personal relationships.

Who can be affected by alcohol dementia?

Usually, it is the heavy drinker inflicted with alcohol dementia and occurs within the age bracket of 40 or 45 upwards.

We can say that a person is a heavy drinker if the person consumes more than the standard two drinks a day.

The National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia recommends that it is better to stick to the standard of two drinks per day. This refers, most likely, to two bottles and not two barrels to avoid this disease.

Regardless of gender, the person who had been a heavy drinker for several years is prone to developing alcohol dementia in their 40's.

Also, they may already experience some bodily and personality changes.

But that is not the general trend as there are heavy drinkers who the disease has not inflicted.

There could be other factors that may trigger the disease, such as lifestyle and nutrient intake.

Form  of Alcohol Dementia

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

There are several types of alcohol dementia. One of them is the Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS).

There are two disorders identified and included in this particular type: Wernicke’s encephalopathy and the Korsakoff psychosis or sometimes being called the Korsakoff syndrome.

The person having alcohol dementia may experience Wernicke’s encephalopathy or Korsakoff psychosis.

Sometimes, both disorders are being experienced by the person.

Wernicke’s encephalopathy

Manifestations of Wernicke’s encephalopathy are the following: the person has abnormal eye movements, referred to as ophthalmoplegia.

It can also be characterized by ataxia or an unsteady gait, and the person is having a sense of confusion.

Causes of Wernicke’s encephalopathy

The brain cells are often being damage that eventually triggers the Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.

A high level of alcohol in the body is identified as the main culprit for cognitive disorder.

Maintaining healthy brain cells must be adequately supplied with the needed vitamins, specifically vitamin B and Thiamine.

Lack of these nutrients, specifically thiamine, will eventually lead to the damaging of the brain neurons.

Based on the study, alcoholics often are having thiamine deficiency for the simple reason that alcohol depletes and prevents thiamine absorption of the body, thereby leading to thiamine deficiency.

The brain needs thiamine for the brain cells to produce sugar and eventually energy needed by the brain to function correctly. Without energy, the brain will not function accordingly.

Lack of vitamin B and thiamine may eventually lead to a permanent brain disorder. It is a must that you must be vigilant about any symptoms identified, especially if you have been drinking for several years.

If Wernicke’s encephalopathy is left untreated, it may develop or progress into Korsakoff syndrome or  Korsakoff psychosis.

Korsakoff syndrome, or Korsakoff psychosis

This may be considered the worst form of alcohol dementia because the person is already experiencing psychosis and a severe degree of cognitive disorder.

The person starts to fabricate stories of which is known as confabulation fabrication.

The confabulation fabrication is the making up stories to fill up the memory gaps wherein the brain is no longer able to properly recognize the sequence of events in his or her life.

And to fill up the memory gap, the brain resorted to fabricating stories.

The fun part is that the fabricated stories tend to be detailed and believable. Nobody will suspect the story relayed is just a product of the brain having some memory lapses.

There is already a severe impairment in the cognitive and mental abilities of the person that he or she can no longer absorb and learn new things.

However, those abilities learned before can still be performed by the person.

A significant change in the person's personality is noticeable. Often, people around them may misunderstand they're already experiencing a form of psychosis, which is called Korsakoff syndrome or Korsakoff psychosis.

There is a great possibility that the person is suffering from this type of disease if he keeps repeating questions, stories, and information and fully unaware he is doing it.

Can Alcoholism Cause Dementia?

Alcohol-related brain injury (ARBD) is called alcohol-related dementia. Alcohol-related dementia is a condition that causes a person to have difficulty with daily tasks.

Drinking too much alcohol over time can lead to brain cell death and shrinkage. Drinking too much alcohol can cause brain cell damage and reversing alcoholic dementia becomes more difficult.

Can alcohol dementia be reversed or be treated?

Early detection and treatment of alcohol dementia may reverse or, if not, reduce the mental impairment if the person will abstain from drinking alcohol and started replenishing the body of the needed nutrients such as vitamin B and Thiamine.

Thiamine plays a crucial role not only because it supplies the needed energy of the brain to properly function but also serves as a combatant to reduce the toxic residue of the alcohol in the body.

With adequate Thiamine supplement, the body has a strong defence against the toxic of alcohol.

Support System

The person diagnosed with having alcohol dementia needs all the emotional support from his or her family, peers, colleagues, and community to properly cope with this struggling and stressful moment in their lives.

Alcoholics should not be left alone in their misery. Still, instead, they should feel that they are not alone in this battle and that they have all the support and love of their family members and friends.

This will give them the determination to proceed with the healing process and eventually recover from the disease.

Having a support system is crucial for the person to overcome this disease. Al-Anon or Alcoholics Anonymous is a group that can be lean on in this crucial time.

It provides support services to those who have alcohol problems or those who are already experiencing alcohol dementia.

How would you lend your hand to a friend or a loved one who is experiencing alcohol dementia?

You may adequately explain to him or her the positive ways to reverse alcohol dementia in many ways.

You can start by relaying any piece of information you obtain from this article or ask your friend to call National Dementia Helpline any time or any day.

Also, you may visit our treatment centres in Abbeycare Scotland or Abbeycare Gloucester. The sooner you contact us the earlier we can help you.

About the author

Laura Morris

Laura Morris is an experienced clinical practitioner and CQC Registered Manager with over twenty years experience, over ten of which have been as an Independent Nurse Prescriber.

She has held a number of senior leadership roles in the substance use and mental health sector in the NHS, the prison service and in leading social enterprises in the field.

Last Updated: October 31, 2023