Can Your Brain Recover from Alcoholism?
Alcohol abuse affects your life in ways that impact your behavior as well as your physical and emotional well-being. Alcoholism can take a tremendous toll on your personal, social and work life, causing upheaval in relationships and breakdowns in responsibility. As such, recovery from alcoholism can be a very long and difficult road.
Alcoholism can cause a number of disturbing, destructive and devastating life effects, including:
- Ruined friendships
- Broken marriages
- Family turmoil
- Financial setbacks
- Job loss
- DUI arrests
- Serious accidents
It is often these sad and tragic outcomes that finally lead an alcoholic to seek help. And should you find yourself here, in need of help, the very good news is that recovery is possible. Many who commit themselves to a recovery program are able to rescue their futures and restore the hope, happiness and productivity they had lost.
But What About Your Brain?
Research has confirmed alcohol abuse causes your brain to shrink. Significant changes in brain cells and brain chemistry also result from heavy alcohol use. These changes have been linked to problems including memory loss, difficulty concentrating and impulsive behavior.
Can your brain recover? And if so, how thorough can its recovery be, and how long will it take?
Brain Returning to Normal Function
If there hasn’t been prolonged thiamine deficiency or liver failure leading to brain damage, a heavy drinker’s brain cells are still mostly intact—even though the brain may have shrunk temporarily due to alcohol abuse. Because alcohol doesn’t kill gray brain cells (except possibly in the parietal lobe), the bulk of an alcoholic’s cognitive ability can return after a period of abstinence, and their brain size will return to normal. There’s reason to hope. But the drinking must stop.
To find out whether drinking’s impact on the brain could be reversed, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of alcoholics within the first 24 hours of detox and again two weeks later. They found that different brain regions of the brain were found to recover at different paces. The cerebellum, for example, was back to normal two weeks after detox. Brain areas involved in more-complex thinking recover more slowly.
So how long does it take to recover from alcohol brain damage?
Here is a list of cognitive functions and an approximation of how long it takes for them to return after you stop drinking:
Acute Detox (Less than 2 weeks)
Early Abstinence (2 weeks – 2 months)
- No longer experiencing mild confusion
- Mild confusion
- Reduced irritability
- Reduced distractibility
Mid-Range Abstinence (2 months – 5 years)
- Improved reaction times
- Restored attention and concentration
- Restored verbal learning ability, abstract reasoning, and short-term memory.
Long-Term Abstinence (7 years)
- Restored non-verbal abstract reasoning ability
- Restored mental flexibility
- Restored nonverbal short-term memory
- Potential improvement in Visuospatial abilities
The Good News
It appears most of the negative impact alcoholism has on your brain can be reversed. There’s cause for hope. But make no mistake about it—you must stop drinking.
Let Your Recovery Begin Today!
Alcohol dependency is at least partially defined by its physical aspects. These include changes in brain chemistry that lead to cravings when alcohol consumption ceases. As you get sober, the cravings will gradually decrease in intensity until they are no longer much of a factor.
Physical cravings can cause a relapse in the early stages of recovery, before they begin to decline in their severity. But psychological cravings for alcohol are an entirely different matter. These powerful urges are triggered by life circumstances and events that never completely lose their ability to provoke a response. Addiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum. These are triggers—and you’ll benefit from education, counseling and therapy to reframe your understanding of these triggers and gain the skills necessary to manage them.
Recovering from alcoholism means recovering your life. We can help. Let us assist you in every step towards a complete recovery.
At Honey Lake Clinic, we believe faith-based treatment, encompassing your spiritual, physical and mental health, will provide you with the long-lasting tools and knowledge you need to break alcohol’s grip.
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