According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 15.1 million adults over the age of eighteen were suffering from an alcohol use disorder. Of those individuals, 9.8 million were men and 5.3 million are women. While it is often suggested that drinking alcohol in moderation can have health benefits, it is important to understand what that means. Drinking moderately means no more than one drink for women, or two for men, daily. Also, health benefits can come from red wine, but those same benefits can be found in fresh fruit. It isn’t the actual alcohol that provides any health benefits. The belief that alcohol use is actually “healthy” has lead to some very serious consequences for some people. It’s been the cause for excessive drinking in many cases. Since the use of this substance is legal and acceptable, individuals often struggle to use it moderately.
Wet brain is directly caused by excessive alcohol abuse. It doesn’t happen overnight; rather, it takes time and a severe addiction to alcohol for it to develop. This chronic brain syndrome is also known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and it is a type of brain damage caused by a vitamin B1 deficiency. There are signs and symptoms of wet brain you can look out for. But the best thing you can do is get help for alcohol abuse before it becomes extremely severe. This will prevent you from developing the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome or any other similar issue.
Those who are suffering from alcohol dependence and abuse should seek help immediately. Perhaps you are struggling with an alcohol problem. Or, maybe you know someone else who is. In either case, it’s important to learn about the possible unfavorable results of excessive alcohol use. Wet brain is one of those negative results. Let’s talk about this illness and what it means to suffer from it.
Discussing Alcohol’s Effects on the Entire Body
Ultimately, alcohol abuse can really have a negative effect on every part of your body in one way or another, causing issues ranging from minor changes to life-threatening complications. For people who drink more than the moderate drinking we mentioned above, the use of alcohol can have negative consequences for many different parts of the body. The damage most people associate with drinking is liver damage, which is accurate. Your liver is responsible for detoxifying the body and breaking down impurities. When alcohol is present, the organ goes into overdrive as it works to keep up with all of the alcohol. This can cause a fatty liver and permanent liver damage, which in extreme cases requires a transplant. Other than the liver, alcohol abuse affects the heart, lungs, and stomach. Excessive alcohol use can even affect the skin, hair, and eyes. It can also raise the risk of breast cancer.
Alcohol use affects the heart by being a causing factor of cardiovascular disease. It can also make people more susceptible to lung infections because the substance makes it hard for the body to fight off viruses. People who drink excessively may experience stomach troubles like bloating or gas buildup. Some individuals suffer from osteoporosis (bone weakness) as a result of uncontrolled drinking. Too much alcohol can also lead to cramping and fatigue in the muscles.
Wet Brain and the Brain-Related Issues Associated with Alcohol Abuse
In addition to its effects on the rest of the human body, alcohol has a very serious impact on the brain. The most extreme form of this damage is called wet brain. When your brain tissue is exposed to repeated, heavy, and uncontrolled alcohol use, it becomes deprived of some of the vitamins that are essential to proper functionality. In other words, alcohol causes the brain to lose some of the good things it needs in order to work the right way. When a person drinks too much too often, his or her brain will begin to deteriorate and it won’t be able to work to its full capacity. Alcoholism causes cognitive changes that are far from positive. It also leads to behavioral and emotional changes, which are a direct result of the substance’s effect on the brain. As alcohol rids the brain of what it needs in order to function correctly, wet brain to occurs.
As we mentioned a little earlier, the brain needs a vitamin called thiamine, or vitamin B1. This vitamin helps the body to break down and use sugars for energy. But alcohol abuse causes a deficiency of this very important vitamin. But, the reason for this deficiency is more of an indirect effect of alcoholism. See, our bodies do not naturally produce this particular vitamin; we get it from the food that we eat. But, many times, people who abuse alcohol develop poor eating habits. Some eat very little food at all while others may eat but make poor food choices. In either situation, the individual takes in far too few of the vitamins he or she needs, which most likely includes vitamin B1. When a person’s brain is unable to have enough of this essential element, it is likely that the individual will develop complications and illnesses like Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
More Information About Wet Brain and Its Effects
Now that we’ve discussed what leads to the development of this chronic brain syndrome, let’s talk a little more about what this illness actually is. This condition is a result of damage done to the lower parts of the brain. These areas of the brain are called the hypothalamus and the thalamus. They’re responsible for helping with important cognitive activities, such as memory. However, when a person consumes too much alcohol too often and becomes dependent on it, the body is unable to intake and properly use thiamine. As a result, the body and brain both suffer and the individual may struggle with things like memory loss because of alcohol’s effect on the lower brain. So, in summary, wet brain is a serious type of brain damage that can occur when a person abuses alcohol. Now, let’s talk a little bit about the types and symptoms of wet brain.
Wet brain actually consists of two different and individual syndromes. They’re often called “stages” of wet brain. Here are brief overviews of these syndromes:
Wernicke’s encephalopathy – This is a condition that causes neurological symptoms and memory loss because of its effect on the lower portions of the brain. Some of the main symptoms of this syndrome include the following:
- Muscular fatigue
- Problems walking
- Increased heart rate
- Shakiness in the legs
- Drooping in the eyelids
- Problems with balance
- Lack of muscle control and coordination
- Uncontrolled or involuntary eye movements
Korsakoff’s psychosis – This is a more long-lasting condition which often occurs after Wernicke’s encephalopathy. It is permanent damage to the memory centers of the brain. Some of the symptoms a person might experience include:
- Loss of memory
- Coordination problems
- Behavioral and personality changes
- Problems with vision (blurriness, etc.)
- Story fabrications (to fill in memory gaps)
If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from wet brain, it is important to get them into treatment as soon as possible. If they are so far into their alcoholism that they have wet brain, the rest of their body is suffering also and help is a necessity. People in these early stages also often have issues with vision, experiencing double or blurry vision. Once a person is in the Korsakoff’s psychosis stage, they may actually begin to hallucinate. They often lose the ability to gain any new memories, and they often have no recollection of the past both short term and long term. It becomes increasingly difficult for these people to find jobs and hold onto relationships because of their mental state.
Getting Help for Alcohol Use and Dependence
If you or a loved one are having a hard time giving up alcohol, get help as soon as possible. The earlier you get help, the more you can reverse any damage done to your body and mind. And, you can prevent the onset of wet brain and other irreversible diseases. Here at Diablo Valley Drug & Alcohol Services, we offer an outpatient approach to dealing with alcohol dependence. So, individuals can get the help they need without having to enroll in residential treatment. This means patients can continue with work, school, or family obligations while getting the support you need for a life of recovery.
Call us today to speak with one of our specialists: (925) 289-1430.
**Originally posted on December 19, 2018. Updated on March 15, 2019.