Long-term and severe alcohol abuse can lead to serious diseases, even after the patient has stopped consuming alcohol. These diseases are known as AUDs or Alcohol-Use Disorders. This set of conditions can seriously damage the brain, especially the parietal and frontal cortices. Fortunately, this damage can be reversed once the patient abstains from alcohol on a long-term basis. Unfortunately, people who are suffering from AUDs are also prone to chronic smoking. And according to a recent MRI study, chronic smoking can disrupt blood flow to the brain, making it harder for the brain to recover from alcoholism.
What is affected?
To understand better the effects of Alcohol-Use Disorders, it’s important to understand the areas of the brain that are affected. The frontal lobes of the brain are responsible for short-tern memory, learning, problem solving, reasoning, planning and controlling emotions. On the other hand, the parietal lobes are involved in visuospatial processing and attentional regulation. A person who drinks excessively risks damaging these regions of the brain. This is why severe alcoholics exhibit cognitive dysfunction after detoxification. In order to function normally, the brain tissues need a regular supply of blood flow. This blood flow will bring oxygen and other compounds that are necessary for the metabolism of the brain. The blood flow also takes away the brain’s metabolic by-products. In fact, it’s an interesting fact that even though the brain is merely 1/50th of the body’s total weight, it needs about 20% of the blood that is being produced by the heart.
Lack of blood
When a person suffers from AUDs, the blood that is flowing to his brain automatically decreases. However, if he abstains from alcohol, this impaired blood flow may eventually go back to normal. However, this recover will be affected by certain factors such as genes, diet, frequency of exercise, age, etc. Nowadays, researchers are also trying to uncover if tobacco use can also have a significant impact.
To smoke or not to smoke
To study the connection between cerebral perfusion (amount of blood flow to the brain) and consumption of tobacco, a group of alcohol-dependent patients were recruited. Half of the group were non-smokers, while the other half were smokers. The entire group was then required to abstain from alcohol. At one week, both recovery rates between the two groups were the same. However, after five weeks, it clearly showed that the non-smoking individuals have higher cerebral perfusion.
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