The excessive consumption of alcohol is at the origin of more than two hundred diseases and for the first time a team of researchers has proven that the damages induced by this consumption do not stop when they stop drinking.
Researchers have found that there is a generalized alteration in the white matter of the brain (the "highways" that connect the different parts of the brain) that affects above all the structures related to communication between the two hemispheres, to decision making and to memory.
The study, whose conclusions are published today by the journal "Jama Psychiatry", has been carried out by researchers from the Institute of Neurosciences of Alicante (a mixed center of the Miguel Hernández University and the CSIC) and the Central Institute of Mental Health of the University of Heidelberg (Germany).
Besides being in the origin of more than two hundred diseases, the excessive consumption of alcohol causes more than three million deaths every year in the world, so the early detection of its negative effects is a priority goal of neuroscientists.
The study involved 91 patients with a mean age of 46 years, hospitalized in Germany because of a disturbance from alcohol consumption, and completed with a model of rats that has shown a natural preference for alcohol, explained to Efe the Italian neuroscientist Silvia de Santis, of the Institute of Neurosciences of Alicante.
Silvia de Santis has specified that all patients who have voluntarily participated in the research suffer from psychiatric illnesses associated with excessive alcohol consumption, and has emphasized that the damage that has been done affects the "white matter" that connects the different parts of the brain.
The now known results refute the belief that changes in the brain begin to normalize immediately after stopping alcohol consumption, and also highlight that permanent brain deficits due to excessive alcohol consumption can occur many times earlier than he believed.
The results, which have been obtained by magnetic resonance during the first weeks of abstinence, have been obtained with guarantees that the patients were not drinking any alcohol since they were all admitted to a hospital following a detoxification program.
The researcher Santiago Canals, who leads the Plasticity group of the Neural Networks in the Institute of Neurosciences of Alicante, has highlighted that although the toxicity of alcohol ceases when you stop drinking, changes in the brain continue to progress because a new Inflammatory process that progresses even in the absence of alcohol.
Canals, who has described the results as "surprising", pointed out that these evidences would also be related to the ease of relapse that occurs when patients have stopped drinking during the period of abstinence.