Anything someone does to the extreme is going to cause significant problems. That’s why addictions are so dangerous.
Alcoholism has been a significant problem in the US for many decades. The legality of easy access to alcohol makes it a primary substance abuse target for people who are looking for ways to escape from the problems they encounter in their everyday lives. The problem with alcohol is it seems to be such a harmless substance while sitting in a glass of wine. What we know is in the wrong hands; alcohol is a menace that can destroy lives.
Stages of Alcoholism
Most people are acutely aware that alcoholism exists. What most people don’t realize is that there are several stages of alcoholism, with one being more progressive than the one that proceeds it. As the disease progresses, the risks to the alcoholic’s health increases.
Without getting into too much technical detail, we’ll limit the number of stages to four as follows:
- Alcohol dependence
- Alcohol addiction
- Alcohol dementia
- Wernicke Encephalopathy and Korsakoff Psychosis (commonly referred to as Wet Brain Syndrome
Alcohol dependence occurs when the addiction sufferer’s mind and body become reliant on alcohol being in the individual’s system for proper functioning. When the alcohol is not available, the mind and body will alert the individual that it craves a drink. More times than not, the individual will oblige.
Alcohol addiction is the next step along the path of alcoholism. Experts claim alcohol addiction affects approximately 6% of the US population. If that’s true, there are good reasons for the nation to be concerned by the fact alcoholism is still a significant issue for society.
Alcohol addiction becomes evident when someone suffering from alcohol dependence begins showing addictive behaviors. Alcohol addictive behaviors could include the following:
- Inability and unwillingness to handle personal responsibilities
- Difficulty at work or in school
- Increasing challenges with personal relationships
- Exposing oneself to dangerous behaviors like driving drunk
The other way to identify when someone has crossed over to dependence is if they get to the point where withdrawal symptoms appear with any level of abstinence. That’s a sure sign the addiction sufferer is suffering from an actual addiction to alcohol.
As an alcohol addiction sufferer’s addiction progresses, there will come a point when a significant amount of damage is being done to the individual’s brain cells. The fact alcohol kills brain cells is not a new concept. It’s something about which most common folks are likely aware. What’s hard to fathom is how the brain damage manifests into both mental and physical difficulties for the individual who goes this far with their alcoholism.
What exactly does alcoholic dementia look like? The best way for us to accurately answer this question is to list some of the possible symptoms:
- Lack of ability to understand information
- Difficulty with memory and the ability to recall past events
- Difficulty solving simple problems
- Loss of some motor function
- Extreme personality changes
- Difficulty managing personal responsibilities
- Repeating oneself regularly
To the untrained eye, individuals who have alcoholic dementia will appear to be drunk even when they are moving closer to a sober state. They are challenging to communicate with and tend to be very unresponsive. It’s clear they are dealing with some difficulty, but it’s difficult to detect it has anything to alcoholism.
Wet Brain Syndrome
Short of succumbing totally to the disease of alcoholism, wet brain syndrome is the last step in that direction. To better understand why wet brain syndrome occurs, a discussion about the biology of the disorder would seem to be in order.
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome or wet brain syndrome stems from a thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency in the body. Thiamine is not something the body can produce on its own, which translates to humans having to take in the needed thiamine through their diets. Thiamine is a necessary part of a human’s diet as it plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy cells throughout the body. Therein lies the hint regarding why experts claim the alcohol kills brain cells.
Alcohol acts to affect the way cells can absorb the thiamine they need. Also, alcoholism usually results in the afflicted individual having an inadequate diet. That translates to them not getting enough thiamine brought into their body through healthy foods. The combination of these two factors creates the killing of cells in the brain.
Once thiamine deficiency sets in, the brain damage starts. Over time, the brain damage increases in severity to the point the individual loses the ability to function appropriately, either mentally or physically.
The symptoms of wet brain syndrome are the same as alcoholic dementia. The only thing that differentiates the two disorders is the severity of the symptoms.
Treating Wet Brain Syndrome
It’s important to note that the mortality rate associated with wet brain disease is as high as 20%. This is a disorder that needs to be taken seriously. The folks who end up moving this far down the alcoholism scale are the individuals who typically suffer through alcohol addiction for many years. The amount of alcohol a person consumes will at a time also play a role in the onset of this disorder.
To be clear, wet brain syndrome disorder is not curable. Once it strikes, it’s something the individual will have to live with until death. Leading up to death, the afflicted individual could end up living as a vegetable to the point of eventually falling into a coma before dying.
Of course, not all the news is terrible. The disorder is treatable to the point that the progression can be stalled If caught in time. The treatment process involves a physician prescribing certain medications to control things like conclusions or rapid eye movements. The individual would also want to take large doses of thiamine through vitamins. By decreasing symptoms and increasing the body’s level of thiamine, the individual should be able to freeze their wet brain syndrome in place. It would be unreasonable to expect improvement in one’s existing condition.
If you or a loved one are showing signs of wet brain syndrome, you need to see a physician immediately. It’s a complicated disorder to diagnose, but the motivation to get a proper diagnosis is there. It’s the best chance someone has to keep the disease from progressing to the point that the worst symptoms become apparent. It’s also essential that anyone with a significant drinking problem get themselves into a drug and alcohol treatment facility as soon as possible.