There is a condition among some recovering alcoholics known as “wet brain”, which is actually called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. It’s a serious problem that occurs when a deficiency of vitamins and nutrients sets the stage for encephalopathy, which is an enlargement of the brain causing psychosis that can affect memory and vision, as well as emotional reactions. While wet brain doesn’t affect every alcoholic in recovery, it’s important to understand that it cannot be ignored.
Why Wet Brain Is Found in Alcoholics
Alcoholics do not typically get the nutrition they need, especially if they are relying on alcohol consumption to fuel their bodies. While alcohol is high in sugars and, accordingly, carbohydrates, it has a low nutritional value otherwise. Eventually, the body becomes starved of key nutrients, such as vitamin B1. Without those nutrients, the brain starts to swell and symptoms begin to appear, including:
- The inability to walk straight or easily. The gait problems are due to the increase in brain pressure and problems in the regions of the brain that control the limbs.
- The difficulty remembering even easy tasks. This can be discouraging and scary, especially for the loved ones of the recovering alcoholic. Long-term memory may be permanently erased if wet brain occurs.
- Problems dealing with emotions. There is an emotional connection when it comes to wet brain. Consequently, sufferers may not be able to possess good judgment or deal with their own emotional reactions.
- Problems with reflexes and motor control. Being able to control one’s body is compromised due to the enlargement of the brain. This may or may not cause permanent damage.
- As the brain continues to swell, and the body is consistently left without nutrients, coma and eventual death can result.
How Long Does Wet Brain Last?
Because wet brain is seen in chronic alcoholics, it will usually last until there is an intervention by a medical specialist. Wet brain can cause death. Because of this, it should be treated immediately and with the utmost seriousness.
Can Wet Brain Be Reversed?
In many cases, the encephalopathy that accompanies wet brain can be reversed with a series of medications delivered intravenously. However, some of the psychological and memory-related side effects may remain. Much depends upon the physical make-up of the alcoholic, as well as how long he or she has been addicted to alcohol. It’s not unusual for wet brain to be seen in those who have struggled with alcohol addiction for many, many years.
How Is Wet Brain Diagnosed?
Wet brain is not physically obvious. Typically, the condition is diagnosed through the symptoms that the alcoholic is having. A treatment specialist at a reputable rehab facility like 12 Keys that focuses on helping those with alcohol addiction may notice the signs of wet brain, or a loved one may be aware that something is wrong with the recovering alcoholic. Regardless of how the wet brain condition is first noticed, it is essential that a medical provider be brought in so that treatment can begin. Remember that wet brain will not go away on its own.