Passing out drunk could more than double the risk of later developing dementia, a study has found, with just one drink a day raising the risk by 22 per cent.
Researchers looked at dementia diagnoses in more than 130,000 adults in Europe who had reported their drinking habits some 14 years prior.
Those who said they had lost consciousness after drinking had a two-fold increased risk of dementia.
This was even if they regarded themselves as generally moderate drinkers with the occasional binge session. Alcohol was toxic to nerve cells in the brain and caused serious damage to them when people went overboard on their drinking, the study said.
The risk of dementia was even apparent for those who drank as little as two or three units or more of alcohol per day – the equivalent of a pint of beer or a large glass of wine.
These ‘heavy’ drinkers, breaching recommended limits set by health chiefs, had up to a 1.2-fold greater risk of developing the memory-robbing disease.
The findings suggest getting black-out drunk has a long-term affect on the brain, the researchers said, causing cognitive decline in later years.
People who said they had lost consciousness after drinking – regardless of how much alcohol they consumed – had a 2-fold increased risk of dementia (stock image)
The study, published today in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, was led by Dr Mika Kivimäki at University College London (UCL).
Researchers examined the results of seven separate studies that all investigated whether drinking was a dementia risk factor.
The studies spanned the UK, France, Sweden and Finland with 131,415 participants of an average age of 43.
Each study volunteer answered a questionnaire about their drinking habits before being categorised into heavy or moderate drinkers.
Some 103,290 were heavy drinkers because they consumed more than the limit recommended by UK and US health chiefs.
In the UK it is 14 units per week and in the US it is 21. Two units is the equivalent of a pint of lower-strength beer or a small to standard glass of wine.
The rest of the group, 28,125 people, were deemed moderate drinkers because they reported less than the advised limit.
The findings show those who drank more than 14 units per week had a 16 per cent higher chance of dementia, while those who breached 21 units had a 22 per cent higher odds.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT ALCOHOL ADVICE IN THE US AND THE UK?
One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is around the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour.
The NHS advise men and women not to drink more than 14 units a week a week to avoid health risks.
For example, a bottle of lager would contain around 1.7 units, and a large glass of wine around three units.
For 30 years, men have been advised to limit their drinks to two a day, while women should keep it to one.
This is the equivalent of a small glass of beer or wine, or a shot of liquor, according to health chiefs.
Around 96,000 study participants were asked whether they had ‘passed out’ due to drinking during the past 12 months, either never, once, or several times.
Some 10.4 per cent of the study participants reported having lost consciousness after a drinking session in the past year.
The researchers say this may be an overestimate, considering many people refer to ‘passing out’ as simply going to sleep after drinking.
Those who passed out were more likely to throw back beers and spirits than wine.
Participants were divided into four groups: moderate drinkers who did or did not pass out, and heavy drinkers who did or did not pass out.
Moderate drinkers who pass out tend to be those who drink little but sometimes have episodes of excessive drinking, the researchers said.
Then the researchers used a range of electronic hospital and doctor records to work out who had been diagnosed with dementia in the 14 years following.
Losing consciousness once raised the odds of a dementia diagnosis by 2.1-fold, the study found, compared to those who drank moderately and never blacked out.
This rose to 2.2-fold in those who had a habit of passing out, reporting it more than once in the past year.
The risk was even across people who considered themselves both moderate and heavy drinkers.
The researchers explained that people who think of themselves as moderate drinkers may still be putting themselves at risk when they binge drink to the point of blacking out.
Dr Kivimäki told MailOnline: ‘A person’s average consumption can be moderate even if he/she has sometimes episodes of heavy binge drinking.
‘Our findings suggest that those who drink to the point of passing out are at increased risk of dementia even if their average consumption is moderate.’
He added that had the measure of ‘passing out’ been more precise – such as the level of alcohol in the blood – those who just fall asleep would not have been included.
‘The excess dementia risk might have been even higher as the exposed group would not include milder cases who only fell asleep,’ Dr Kivimäki said.
‘Unfortunately, objective measurement for alcohol-induced loss of consciousness are not easily scalable for a large real-life study, such as ours.’
Further analysis showed men were almost three times more likely to get dementia if they often blacked out, whereas women had twice the risk.
The paper said: ‘This increased risk suggests that the drinking pattern is important versus just the overall weekly quantity consumed.’
The researchers also looked at several other alcohol related health conditions, such as liver disease and kidney failure, and found they were higher among those who passed out from drinking.
These ‘contributed little’ to the main link between losing consciousness and dementia, the findings reveal.
Moreover, those who live a healthy lifestyle – other than for their habit of passing out – were not protected from the risks.
Dr Kivimäki and colleagues bluntly explain that alcohol is like poison to the brain, causing it to shrink and damaging important cells.
When it crosses the blood-brain barrier it infiltrates neurons in high concentrations.
Neurons send chemical messages around they brain. If they die, it leads to the classic symptoms of confusion, trouble understanding things and memory loss.
Atrophy describes a loss of neurons and the connections between them, and the authors wrote: ‘Alcohol can induce brain atrophy.’
When alcohol goes through the process of breaking down while in the brain, it can cause damage to cells, the paper warned.
Another possible explanation is that drinks that leads to loss of consciousness can mean someone falls and has repeated, mild head injuries. But the researchers could not support this theory given it would be difficult to measure.
WHAT IS ALCOHOLISM?
Alcoholism is the most severe form of alcohol abuse and involves the inability to manage drinking habits.
It is organised into three categories: mild, moderate and severe. Each category has various symptoms and can cause harmful side effects.
If left untreated, any type of alcohol abuse can spiral out of control.
Individuals struggling with alcoholism often feel as though they cannot function normally without alcohol.
This can lead to a wide range of issues and impact professional goals, personal matters, relationships and overall health.
Sometimes the warning signs of alcohol abuse are very noticeable. Other times, they can take longer to surface.
When alcohol addiction is discovered in its early stages, the chance for a successful recovery increases significantly.
Common signs of alcoholism include:
- Being unable to control alcohol consumption
- Craving alcohol when you’re not drinking
- Putting alcohol above personal responsibilities
- Feeling the need to keep drinking more
- Spending a substantial amount of money on alcohol
- Behaving differently after drinking
Short-term effects of alcohol abuse can be just as dangerous as long-term effects.
For instance, drinking can impact your reaction time, causing you to have slow reflexes and coordination.
That’s why drinking and driving is extremely dangerous. Getting behind the wheel of a car can alter your perception of speed and distance, putting yourself and others at risk.
Several short-term effects of alcohol abuse may produce:
- Slow reaction time
- Poor reflexes
- Reduce brain activity
- Lowered inhibitions
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty breathing
Additionally, consuming too much alcohol can affect your long-term health. Some side effects may lay dormant for years before they surface.
Because of this, professional medical care is required for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Long-term health conditions caused by alcohol:
- Brain defects
- Liver disease
- Diabetes complications
- Heart problems
- Increased risk of cancer
- Vision damage
- Bone loss
Treatment for Alcoholism
There are different forms of treatment available based on frequency and severity of alcohol abuse.
Recovering from alcohol addiction is a process that continues long after rehab.
It takes commitment to practice and apply the techniques you learn in rehab, counseling, support groups and other types of therapy.
Although every individual will have their own recovery plan that’s tailored to their specific needs, treatment generally follows a structure.
Alcohol treatment is broken into three sections, consisting of:
The first stage in alcohol addiction recovery is detoxification. This phase should be completed with the help of medical professionals due to the potential for serious, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Many times, individuals are given a medication to help alleviate the painful side effects of a withdrawal.
There are two types of rehabilitation that help treat alcoholism: inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab. Inpatient rehabs are intensive treatment programs that require you to check into a facility for a certain period of time, usually 30, 60 or 90 days. Outpatient rehab allows individuals to participate in a recovery program while continuing with their daily life. Talk with your doctor about treatment options to determine which form of recovery will best fit your needs.
The recovery process doesn’t end with the completion of rehab. Long-term sobriety requires ongoing therapy and may entail support groups, counseling and other recovery resources. These will make sure you maintain sobriety and continue on a happy, healthy path for months and years to come.
Source: Alcohol Rehab Guide