Researchers have shown how many months it takes for the brain to recover its structure once alcohol consumption stops.
This no longer needs to be proven: alcohol is poisonous for almost all organs, especially those that are highly vascularized as liver, heart, lungs and brain. It’s chronic consumption changes the structure and function of the brain making it harder to stop using. “People with alcohol use disorders often have this thinning in certain parts of their cerebral cortex as the prefrontal cortex, brain layer essential for many cognitive functions (such as learning the memoryTroubleshooting,draw up an argument),” American researchers report in a study published in the journal Alcohol end of August 2023. For example an altered prefrontal cortex Alcohol can make you less active.*
The brain can “regain cortical thickness”
But can we repair this damage? To find out, scientists followed suit 88 peoplerecruited in American clinics in the ‘addiction’ department between 2001 and 2013. For comparison, they studied a control group of 45 people who had never had an alcohol addiction. The condition of their brains was analyzed by brain scan after a week of abstinence, 1 month and then 7 months. Result: the researchers revealed the length of time during which you are no longer allowed to drink alcohol to hope repair brain damage. People who stopped drinking gained full cortical thickness over time, faster during the first month and for 7.3 months (i.e. 7 months and 10 days)after which the thickness was comparable to that of people without alcohol use disorders.
Less recovery in hypertensives and smokers
On the other hand, the study showed poorer recovery in certain parts of the brain in:
► People suffering fromhigh bloodpressure
► People with high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia)
► People smoking during the period of abstinence
Conversely, no significant relationship was found between changes in cortical thickness and use of drugs other than alcohol, psychiatric disorders, or smoking prior to the period of abstinence.
“A new understanding of brain recovery after alcohol withdrawal”
Previous research has shown that certain regions can recover when someone stops drinking, but without indicating to what extent how quickly brain healing occurred. The results of this new research make it possible a new understanding of brain recovery after alcohol withdrawal. But due to the small number and lack of diversity of participants, they cannot be generalized. It is also important to note that these results do not indicate whether any changes have occurred an effect on brain function. “Larger studies are needed to investigate the neurocognitive and psychosocial correlates of cortical thickness recovery during sustained abstinence“, write the researchers who also point out that they did not take into account all the parameters that could have influenced their results, such as genetics, physical activity and liver and lung health.
- Regional restoration of cortical thickness with prolonged abstinence after treatment in people with alcohol use disorder – Alcohol
- What are the health risks of alcohol consumption? Public Health France