Heavy drinking leads to early senile dementia

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Constant alcohol consumption results not only in cognitive disorders but can elicit symptoms of senile dementia in people as young as in their forties.

That is a finding of a new study conducted by neurologists at the University of Medicine in Gdansk, Poland, presented at the Congress of the European Neurology Society (ENS) in Rhodos. The individuals examined had an alcohol dependency averaging 20 years. Of the total, 25.9 percent definitely suffered from anxiety disorders and another 18.5 percent probably did, while 7.4 percent definitely suffered from depressions and a further 7.4 percent probably did – regardless of the individuals’ age and duration of addiction. The test results indicated that a further 14.8 percent had test scores below the limit at which cognitive disorders can be excluded. Their memory, use of language and/or orientation all showed deficits. Experts demand more education about the consequences of alcohol abuse.

“Some people believe that alcohol helps you think”, explained Dr. Mariusz Sieminski from the Department of Adult Neurology at the University of Medicine in Gdansk, Poland. “However, our study provides strong evidence that just the opposite is the case. Heavy alcohol consumption results not only in cognitive disorders but can elicit symptoms of senile dementia in people as young as in their forties.”

The study was presented today at the 17th Congress of the European Neurological Society on the Greek island of Rhodos. Dr. Sieminski: “My colleagues and I wanted to find out whether alcohol dependency could reduce a person’s faculty of thought even at younger ages. We know that alcoholism can also lead to anxiety disorders and depressions, which in turn are accompanied by a reduction in cognitive capacities.

That is why we selected these two parameters to include in the study so we could calculate out their role at the same time. We wanted to know whether and to what extent alcohol directly impairs cognition without doing so by way of other damage.”
The study involved 27 male and female patients averaging 47.5 in age who had alcohol dependencies on average for 20.2 years. The study utilized the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), a quick testing device developed in 1975 and used worldwide today for making an initial assessment of dementia disorders, and the HADS test, a questionnaire for determining anxiety and depression, which is equally quick to evaluate.

The findings: 25.9% of the patients definitely suffered from anxiety disorders and a further 18.5% probably did, while 7.4% of the patents definitely suffered from depressions and another 7.4% probably did. In addition, a further 14.8% had scores on the MMSE test that were under the threshold at which cognitive disorders can be ruled out. Memory, use of language and/or orientation all showed deficits – alarming signs of intellectual decline. This decline was observed in the tested patients regardless of age and also regardless of the duration of their addiction. The first finding shows that no drinker is too young to sustain damage of this kind; the second, that there are apparently people who are susceptible early on to these types of disorders. In those individuals, the disorders emerge quite rapidly while others are immune from them for a very long time.

“These are preliminary results and still have to be confirmed with larger numbers of patients and more precise diagnostic procedures,” noted Dr. Sieminski. “However, we conducted neurological examinations and ruled out focal injuries to the brain right away. That makes us all the more certain that alcohol is to blame for the damage. The import of these findings is immense and poses a problem for society as a whole. We have to draw much more attention to the dangers of alcohol as an addictive poison.”


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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