Quit drinking to reverse alcoholic brain damage

When people who drink heavily stop drinking, some of the brain damage that may be caused by long-term drinking may be reversed, and some of the memory loss they may experience may stop.


Scientists have determined that the “contraction” caused by alcohol in certain areas of the brain can cause cognitive impairment, and this “contraction” will begin to reverse when alcohol leaves the body for an extended period of time.

To understand this important news for people recovering from alcoholism, the key is to understand how alcohol affects the brain.

Brain Injury

Doctors and researchers sometimes use the term alcohol-related cognitive impairment to refer to the devastating effects that repeated excessive drinking can have on brain function. Some of these effects directly stem from the toxic effects of alcohol on the brain.

The areas of the brain most likely to be damaged by alcohol abuse include the frontal lobe, which is responsible for higher-level mental skills such as the ability to think logically and behavioral control, and the cerebellum, which enables the brain to control and coordinate muscle movement.

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NMR test

In research published in 2015 Addiction biologyResearchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to examine the brains of a group of people who are recovering from alcoholism and are abstaining from alcohol.

Each study participant underwent an MRI test after abstinence-one week, one month, and seven and a half months. The researchers performed multiple scans to track the state of the brain over time.

MRI studies have shown that abstinence from alcohol causes an increase in brain volume in key areas including the frontal lobe and cerebellum. This involves gray matter and white matter.

When the researchers studied the positive changes in gray matter volume, they concluded that most of these changes occurred in the three-week span between the end of the first week of abstinence and the end of the first month. Throughout the seven and a half months of abstinence, positive changes in white matter volume occurred at a fairly consistent rate.

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Quit drinking

As early as 2004, the Bowers Alcohol Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted early studies on laboratory mice for the first time showing that due to long-term abstinence, new brain cells develop.

The Bowles research team examined the growth of brain cells in adult rats. These rats consumed a certain amount of alcohol over a four-day period and developed alcohol dependence. Researchers have found that alcohol dependence slows neurogenesis or brain cell development.

Studies have found that as long as four to five weeks of abstinence, new cell growth will occur in the hippocampus of the brain, including a “double burst” of brain cell growth on the seventh day of abstinence.

New brain cells

For a long time, people have believed that the number of neurons in the adult brain is determined early in life, but it is now known that the adult brain can undergo neurogenesis or produce new neurons.

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Research on the emergence of new brain cells after quitting drinking found that the development of new cells is relatively fast after quitting drinking.

Brain Injury

Since studies have shown that the brain is damaged in the early stages of recovery, the medical community has gradually realized that it is important not to bombard people seeking alcohol recovery assistance with too much information in the early stages. This may affect the effectiveness of the alcoholism treatment plan in the first few weeks of recovery and abstinence.

Research on laboratory animals has shown that increasing physical activity can also promote the growth of new brain cells.