A new study offers hope for heavy drinkers by showing that most who stop drinking experience significant cognitive improvements after just 18 days. The study, conducted by researchers and reported by IFL Science, found that deficits such as loss of memory and attention improved in 63 percent of cases after 18 days, indicating that significant improvement is possible in a short amount of time.
Severe alcohol use disorder (AUD) represents difficulty in controlling alcohol intake, and excessive alcohol consumption is associated with a wide range of cognitive deficits, including information storage and retrieval.
Heavy alcohol use can also lead to brain damage. However, previous research has shown that people who stop drinking can reverse some of the deficits associated with AUD, but the exact mechanisms behind this have eluded scientists.
To better understand this phenomenon, the researchers took a longitudinal approach and studied 32 people with severe AUD, 24 of whom were men, over a period of time as they stopped using alcohol after eight and then 18 days.
A control group of 32 healthy people was also included in the study. The participants with AUD were helped by a detoxification program and oral thiamine treatment to stop drinking. Each participant underwent a brief evaluation of alcohol-induced neuropsychological impairment, which determines the cognitive status of alcoholics and is considered the gold standard of testing.
Cognitive impairment after eight days
The results showed that 60 percent of participants with AUD had cognitive impairment after eight days, and 63 percent of them showed improvements to normal levels within 18 days. The biggest benefits were visuospatial indicators, which improved in 67 percent of respondents in 18 days.
The study also has some limitations, such as a small sample size and not taking into account other factors that can affect cognitive abilities, including the use of nicotine. However, this is the fastest improvement in people with AUD that the study has seen so far, and it's possible that cognitive deficits could begin to diminish in an even shorter time.
Additional studies will be needed to determine this. In conclusion, this study provides hope for heavy drinkers that cognitive improvements can be achieved in a short time frame, and it is a reminder of the importance of addressing alcohol use disorder.