Alcohol Related Brain Damage - Mostly Hidden

Alcohol’s not good for the brain. At least too much of it for too long is not good for the brain. Effects can range from mild memory impairment through trouble with judgement and decision making through to permanent dementia. The British Medical Journal covers a recent report on the subject and it makes for alarming reading:

Between 80% and 90% of cases of alcohol related brain damage go undiagnosed, says a new report that calls for more services to support these patients.

What’s it about and who is at risk?

Alcohol related brain damage is an umbrella term for the psychoneurological and cognitive conditions associated with long term alcohol misuse and related vitamin deficiencies. It usually affects people in their 40s and 50s, with women presenting a decade younger than males.

What problems does alcohol related brain damage cause?

The report said that the condition was often not diagnosed because of a lack of awareness among health professionals and the stigma associated with long term alcohol misuse. It added that because no national guidelines, standards of care, or established pathways of care exist in the United Kingdom patients either receive no care or are directed to inappropriate care, such as nursing homes designed for older people with dementia … Kenneth Wilson, editor of the report and professor of old age psychiatry at the University of Liverpool, said, “Alcohol related brain damage is a costly problem, both for individuals and their families, and for health and social services.”

There is cause for hope

The report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of General Practitioners, and the Association of British Neurologists said that three quarters of people with alcohol related brain damage improve with the right multidisciplinary care.

The report goes on to call for national guidance and screening in alcohol treatment services, for the setting up of multidisciplinary teams to tackle the issue and for commissioners to set up services to assess and rehabilitate those suffering from alcohol related brain damage.

I don’t think this is on the radar of the public generally and it doesn’t seem to be a hot topic in recovery communities either. Perhaps there are ways of raising the profile of the condition and perhaps families, friends and recovery communities could lobby commissioners to ensure services are set up in every area to help people recover from alcohol related brain damage.

There is hope and innovation here in the East of Scotland. The good news is that very soon, a unit in Edinburgh will open to serve patients from the Lothians area, which will hopefully help 60 patients a year to get the help they need to improve and recover from the condition.


This article has been republished with the author's permission from his own website, Recovery Review.