A major fear that anyone suffering from alcoholism invariably has is the damage our drinking may have done to our brains. This is not an unfounded fear – alcoholism most certainly causes damage to the brain.
Science, however, provides hope for anyone who has suffered from alcoholism. Here we break down some studies that demonstrate the brain’s amazing capacity to heal, and why it is never too late to get sober.
How Does Alcohol Damage the Brain?
Alcoholism does, unfortunately, cause damage to the brain in numerous ways. Drinking has been shown to actually shrink the brain over years of abuse. Alcohol has also been shown to speed up memory loss in heavy drinkers.
Alcohol, like other substances of abuse, causes drastic changes to the brain’s reward system that ultimately result in addiction and dependence issues. Alcohol’s ability to reduce vitamin B1 in the body can also accelerate dementia in alcoholics.
Overall, it is clear that alcoholism causes damage to the brain and cognitive function over time. (1)
So does sobriety heal the brain?
The good news is that abstinence has been shown to reverse several of the cognitive impairments caused by alcoholism. Cognitive function, such as problem-solving, memory, and visuospatial ability (ability to identify visual and spatial relationships) have been shown to improve with abstinence.
The reduction in brain volume is also shown to return to normal with abstinence. It has also been shown that with abstinence, the damages to the brain’s reward system ultimately heal. (2)
So what is the timeline?
Not only does abstinence heal many of the cognitive damages caused by alcoholism- studies show that it starts to happen very quickly.
One study has shown that many of the cognitive impairments began to show improvement within only weeks of abstinence. (3) Not surprisingly, remaining abstinent for months to one year was shown to cause the most rebound of cognitive function. (2)
What does this mean?
We sometimes are plagued with the false belief that it is too late for us to get sober and regain a quality of life in which we once had. These studies, however, clearly show that this is simply not true. It is never too late to get sober, and recovery will undoubtedly result in an improvement in both our bodies and minds. These studies provide hope for those who suffer alcoholism and their loved ones.
This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.