Problematic drinking habit, also referred to as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is known to cause various physical disorders. However, it can also affect the functioning of the frontal lobe, especially a distinct modification in the frontal cortex volumes apart from the prefrontal and frontal, says a recent study.
The findings of the study titled “The Role of Aging, Drug Dependence, and Hepatitis C Comorbidity in Alcoholism Cortical Compromise” reported about the volume shortfalls after carrying out an atlas-based quantitative MRI of 222 male respondents suffering from alcohol dependence, and comparing them with 199 age-matched respondents from the control group.
The research, published online in the journal JAMA Psychiatry in March 2018, indicated faster aging in the frontal cortex, precentral and superior gyri. These associations were more conspicuous in adults aged above 65 years and were found in all the respondents irrespective of whether excessive drinking habit developed as a result of prolonged use or just one time use.
Examining AUD respondents for risk of brain disorders
The scientists wished to evaluate if the damaging impact of alcohol on the aging brain aggravated due to drug addiction or co-occurring problems of hepatitis C virus and drug addiction. The observations also indicated that 54.5 percent of the respondents affected by AUD problems, use of alcohol with cocaine or combined use of alcohol with opiates had reduced frontal volumes compared to the respondents addicted to alcohol but not to drugs. The results were based on details of deficits in the precentral region, supplementary motor region and medial volumes experienced in the participants who were dependent on alcohol, but not on drugs..
The findings are important as the population survey in the U.S. reveals that by 2050, nearly 20 percent of its population will be aged above 65 years in contrast to one in seven Americans now. Commenting on the findings, Dr. George F. Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Rockville, Maryland and one of the co-authors of another editorial said, “In addition to aging, people are drinking more alcohol, including “an increase in binge drinking among women 60 years and older.”
Koob in his editorial titled “Age, Alcohol Use, and Brain Function”, detailed a kind of balance between the developing and aging brain concerning the development of the three main neurocircuitry agencies included in addiction problems, viz., the prefrontal cortex, basal ganglia and enlarged amygdale. Koob added, “The hypothesis is that the top-down prefrontal cortex control to reduce impulsivity and compulsivity is underdeveloped in adolescence and compromised in aging, thus opening the possibility of greater vulnerability to AUD in early and late in life.”
Recognizing the limitations of the study
Though the study throws light on how brain disorders can be linked to alcohol use or addiction to drugs, it had its limitations regarding the choice of the respondents. The participants were recruited from community-based treatment centers, of which less than 25 percent of individuals required treatment. In addition, the researchers also failed to recruit both men and women, thus, erasing the possibility of realizing the nature and extent of gender-based distinctions regarding brain deficits.
Treating alcohol use problems
A major percentage of the American population suffers from alcohol dependence. Compulsive use of alcohol can result in many kinds of physiological and psychological health problems.
If you or your loved one shows symptoms of AUD and is looking for treatment, contact Sovereign Health, one of the leading alcohol addiction treatment centers to avail the best possible solutions for treatment of drinking problems. The treatment programs for alcoholism available at our facility are one of the best in the US. You may also call our 24/7 helpline members or chat online with our trained representatives to know more about our alcoholism treatment programs. Treatment for alcoholism is possible with proper care and support of the loved ones.