What many mistakenly perceive to be the benefits of alcohol use—such as reduced inhibitions and an improved mood—are merely short-term drug effects. Long-term, excessive alcohol use can slowly degrade your health and put you at risk of the types of health conditions that cause lasting complications and detract from your quality of life. If you are struggling with alcohol dependency, you are likely aware of such long-term risks of excessive alcohol use as liver damage, cancer, heart disease, and even accidental injuries and deaths. A risk factor that you may not be aware of, however, is one that could slowly develop throughout your adult life and cause significant health risks as you age. Read on to familiarize yourself with wet brain syndrome—and how to get help for an alcohol overuse addiction.
What is Wet Brain Syndrome?
Wet brain syndrome is a form of brain damage caused by a vitamin B1(thiamine) nutritional deficit associated with alcohol use disorder. It is the result of repeated, heavy exposure to alcohol. B1 is an essential, non-naturally occurring vitamin. Often those who overuse alcohol also suffer from a poor diet. Also, alcohol inhibits the body’s ability to absorb B1, diminishes the liver’s store of the essential vitamin, and interferes with the enzyme that changes B1 into an active state. As a result, some alcohol-dependent adults become Vitamin B1 deficient. B1 is a crucial vitamin that is needed throughout the body for healthy development and function and is also critical to the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain. As a result, individuals with a B1 deficiency are at an increased risk of brain damage.
How Many People Experience Wet Brain Syndrome?
According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), approximately one to two percent of the U.S. population develops wet brain syndrome, while according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), that approximately six percent of adults have an alcohol use disorder.
What are the Symptoms of Wet Brain Syndrome?
Wet brain syndrome is comprised of two components:
- Wernicke’s encephalopathy – A condition marked by biochemical lesions of the nervous system that cause neurological symptoms including issues with memory.
- Korsakoff’s psychosis – A long-term condition caused by permanent damage to the areas of the brain responsible for memory. Korsakoff’s psychosis symptoms often appear after the conclusion of Wernicke’s encephalopathy symptoms.
Depending on if the patient is experiencing Wernicke’s encephalopathy or Korsakoff’s psychosis, symptoms of wet brain syndrome may include:
- A range of memory issues that may be as severe as extreme memory loss or an inability to develop new memories (a symptom associated with Korsakoff’s psychosis)
- Changes in vision
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Loss of muscle coordination resulting in an unsteady gait
- Loss of mental function that could result in a coma or death
What seems like an exhilarating indulgence now could result in a debilitating condition later in life that is painful for both you and your loved ones. If you are suffering from an addiction to alcohol, talk to a treatment and recovery expert. The sooner you reach out for help, the sooner you can begin to protect yourself from the risk of wet brain syndrome and other alcohol overuse complications.