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Chronic Alcohol Disorders
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Chronic Alcohol Disorders

Assorted Alcohol Bottles
Assorted Alcohol Bottles

With long term alcohol abuse people can develop severe forms of chronic alcohol disorders, the most commonly known being Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s syndrome.

Common Type

Both are indicative of serious damage to brain function. Each condition will intensify with continued alcohol drinking after first symptoms appear. Chronic and intense alcohol use affects both central nervous system function and peripheral nerves, and affects motor co-ordination and responsivity. Alcoholics should be aware that as these conditions progress, generally the alcoholic has very little awareness or insight as to the severity of his dysfunction.

Wernicke’s encephalopathy

With Wernicke’s encephalopathy there is an acute attack of motor disorder, accompanied by mental confusion, and stupor. The muscles around the eyes might become fixed and rigid, or the eyes might twitch and move without voluntary control. If the person tries to walk they might be unsteady, unable to balance and movements are unco-ordinated.

Wernicke’s Syndrome is brought on by nutritional deficiency and in particular a lack of thiamin – vitamin B12. Immediate injection of thiamine or B vitamin to drink can assist and relieve acute symptoms. The onset of this syndrome might be quite sudden and unexpected, and it need not be that a person is in final stage alcoholism for this to occur. Physical recovery can be supported by rest and light, nutritious food.

Wernicke’s encephalopathy is associated with Korsakoff’s syndrome such that reference is often made to Wernickes-Korsakoff’ syndrome as if they were one and the same condition. However Korsakoff’s syndrome is distinct and its primary symptom is memory loss due to damage to the brain, that particularly affects present and short term memory. The alcoholic cannot concentrate on new tasks, new learning does not occur- repeated instructions can be immediately forgotten.

Korsakoff’s syndrome

People suffering from Korsakoff’s syndrome have little insight into their condition. One interesting symptom of this affliction is that people will use confabulation, recite plausible sounding stories to cover areas where their memory has failed. This is neither deliberate lying, nor is it confusion – simply a different reality. It might be that when an alcoholic in hospital is asked where has he been that morning – he is answering quite truthfully when he says that he has been visiting old friends – in a dreamlike state of recovered memories might in fact be where he has been all the morning.

Korsakoff’s syndrome has often been called psychosis, due to the delusional nature of communications, and lack of insight into the problem. Precise effects will depend upon what areas of the brain have been damaged. A person does his best to retain a form of psychic integrity but as the disorder progresses, communications can become less lucid and more out of touch with reality, with emerging hallucinations.

The sufferer can also experience random neurological symptoms – feel as though insects are crawling on his skin, with visual hallucinations. The alcoholic is famous for seeing pink elephants – a phrase commonly used to refer to any kind of alcoholic delusion brought on by excessive alcohol drinking.

Delirium tremens is associated with alcohol withdrawal and produces symptoms that are similar to Wernickes- Korsakoff syndrome.

Wernickes- Korsakoff syndrome is also associated with alcoholic dementia, in which much of the ability of the brain to use cognitive function is eroded. Different diseases, with different names are labels that define a chronic decline in both mental and physical health that occurs with any amount of excessive alcohol drinking.

Whereas recovery and improvement from alcoholic dementia, delirium tremens, and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome are possible, with alcohol drinking cessation, the efficacy of a cure will depend upon the quality of treatment provided to the alcoholic.

Chronic Alcohol Disorders
Chronic Alcohol Disorders

Alcohol disorders

When directed comprehensive methods are used, some call it a miracle restoration – no miracle but a dedicated application of scientifically proven, and holistic methods to restore the whole body, and mind, to good health. Just as alcohol depletes the body, so it can be reconstructed by providing relief from toxic stresses of both chemical and psychological origin.

Comprehensive methods use a drug free safe procedure to induce complete detox from alcohol and residual alcohol metabolites. A clear healthy body, and a clean fresh mind, cleared from the emotional debris of the past, speeds the alcoholic recovery, and diminishes symptoms of alcohol toxicity in the body.

Although alcohol disorders are mainly suffered by men, women too can become afflicted by alcohol induced disorders – and often at a much younger age. People of any age who binge drink or go on “benders” run the risk of having severe alcohol symptoms that more usually occur only after years of chronic alcohol drinking. When alcoholics suffer from bouts of intense depression, alcohol toxic effects will be intensified. With acute depression comes the risk of suicide or engagement in high risk behaviors, as an antidote.

Alcoholics who want to regain sobriety, and control of their lives will find support and full recovery – using comprehensive methods.

Alcohol and Sleep Deprivation

Alcohol drinking can itself lead to poor sleeping patterns, lack of quality sleep, and overall sleep deprivation

Although drinking alcohol often enables people to fall asleep more easily, sleep patterns are disrupted. Sleep in the early part of the night is usually with the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep in which we dream, and resolve many of our issues from the previous day, and theta waves predominate. Later in the night we enter into delta sleep that is deepest and restorative. Alcohol drinking causes less REM and delta sleep.

We need REM sleep to discharge and release the tensions and pressures of the day, and need delta sleep for recuperation. Deprived of both by alcohol we often awake from alcohol induced sleep deprivation feeling stale and unrefreshed. People feel fatigued, irritable and lethargic. Physical performance is diminished. When tasks call for concentration, novel input and are complex alcohol induced sleep deprivation prevents us from fully focusing on and attending to the task. Sleep deprivation effects are commonly part of the symptoms of an alcoholic “hangover“.

Sleep deprivation suppresses normal levels of prolactin, cortisol and growth hormone. Lack of these chemical regulators means that the body cannot achieve optimum restorative function when deprived of sleep. Lack of sleep in nature, due to some form of stimulation or excitement would normally spell possible danger. Such a stimulas would not be expected to be continuous. The body is not designed to deal with high level chronic stress for long periods of time.

Stress and sleep deprivation cause damage and disorder in the body.

Studies have shown that drinking even low doses of alcohol, after a night of sleep deprivation, intensifies sleep deprivation effects. These effects continue on after all the alcohol has been metabolized. Similarly sleep in the second half of the night will be disrupted by alcohol consumed 6 hours before, even though the drinker has no measurable levels of alcohol left in his body.

Sleep disorder
Sleep disorder

Alcohol, sleep and old age

Alcohol, sleep and old age can be a concerning combination. As we age we need less sleep, and frequently wake in the night. Alcohol drinking might appear to promote sleep but the result can be insomnia, especially in the later part of the night, and a lack of quality sleep.

With infants alcohol exposure, such as drinking while carrying a baby or when breast feeding can lead to sleep disruption.  Sleep disruption and increased arousal occur in the new born, compared with children of non-drinking mothers. Infants exposed to alcohol in breastmilk fall asleep more quickly, but did not sleep as much.

Chronic alcohol drinking is associated with sleep apnea or interrupted breathing while sleeping.Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with fatigue and day time sleepiness, and deficits in skills such as driving a motor vehicle. OSA sufferers who drank 2 or more alcohol drinks per day were regarded as being 5 times more at risk of having a motor vehicle accident. Snoring might also increase after an evening’s heavy drinking due to relaxation of the pharyngeal muscles.

Alcoholism causes inability to get to sleep, less quality sleep and more risk of frequently waking up in the night. Alcohol withdrawal is marked by insomnia and increased sleep fragmentation. Alcohol withdrawal also causes lack of restful sleep bu an increase in REM activity. In acute alcohol withdrawal – sleep might consist of short periods of REM sleep, interrupted by periods of awakening. It is thought that the increased REM sleep is associated with hallucinogenic effects experienced by alcoholics. It is thought that poor sleeping patterns may persist in alcoholics even after they have stopped drinking.

The combined effects of sleep deprivation and alcohol drinking spoil athletic performance, cause lack of ability to focus and reduce concentration. As alcohol drinking is associated with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), metabolic disturbance, and poor nutritional intake the results for sporting performance and general day time activity can be extremely depleting.

The connection

The connection between alcohol drinking and sleep deprivation is clearly established, such that people need to consider sleep deprivation effects when choosing to use alcohol. Problems caused in the body by alcohol seem to be persistent and will continue after the original alcohol has been metabolized. Sportsmen, nursing mothers, people with pre-existent disease need to seriously consider abstaining from alcohol drinking.

Young people in perfect health might want to reconsider the current evidence that implicates alcohol in a range of body disorders, including sleep deprivation, against promotion of alcohol drinking as being safe in moderation.

The reality is that no level of alcohol drinking is guaranteed to be safe, for all people, all of the time. In these times of increased stress, we need all the sleep that we can get. Using alcohol for recreation, to overcome fatigue can end up with results that are the opposite of what the person intended when using alcohol.

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