Alcohol Dependence Damages Brain Tissue

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Alcohol Dependence Damages Brain Tissue

It is a well-known fact that alcohol dependence disorders cause significant damage to the body. New studies at the University of Eastern Finland show that those with alcohol dependence show significant changes in brain tissue. Some of the characteristics in brain change are shared between those suffering from anxiety-prone (type 1) and impulsive (type two) alcoholism.

What Are The Types Of Alcoholism?

Medical professionals categorize alcoholism by two types. Type 1 is considered to be less dependent and applies to those who commonly start drinking in response to stress or other outside circumstances. Men and women are equally susceptible and the condition is considered less severe than type 2. Impulsive (type 2) alcoholism applies to those who tend to drink heavily before the age of 25 and often have criminal history or aggression. Men are overwhelmingly afflicted with type 2 alcoholism and the condition is considered to be more severe. In addition:

  • Type 1 alcohol addiction sufferers tend to feel anxious, shy, sentimental, emotional, and reflective. Type 1 alcoholism can be identified by slower anger escalation.
  • In contrast, type 2 alcoholism is identified by more impulsive behavior, quick-temper, and easy excitement. Type 2 sufferers also tend to feel less guilt, fear, and loss of control over drinking.
  • Alcohol dependence tends to develop quickly in type 1 due to the positive reinforcement from lessened anxiety.
  • Type 2 alcoholism often results in drug abuse in conjunction with alcohol abuse.

Approximately 50-60 percent of the risk for alcoholism is based on genetics. Twin and adoption studies have been conducted to confirm the major risk factors. Identical twins, for instance, have greater likelihood of accordance than that of fraternal twins. Strong correlations between fathers and sons have also been observed in studies. In addition, the stress-relieving qualities of alcohol are significantly amplified for sons of fathers who have suffered from type 2 alcoholism.

Brain Tissue Similarities In Type 1 And Type 2 Alcoholism

One of the most prominent similarities between types 1 and two alcoholism is the increased level of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in the brain; in addition, decreased levels of serotonin transporters in posterior insula and posterior singulate cortex. These regions work in areas of the brain that are associated with emotion and social cognitive processes. This may explain the prominence of social anxiety observed in many cases of type 1 and 2 alcoholism.

Dehydroepiandrosterone And Alcoholism

DHEA is a steroidal endogenous hormone that is produced in the human adrenal glands, gonads, and the brain. It functions as a metabolic intermediate in biosynthesis of the androgen and estrogen sex steroids. DHEA is also responsible for binding to nuclear and cell surface receptors and acting as a neurosteroid. In addition, high DHEA levels can cause aggressiveness, irritability, trouble sleeping, and hormonal imbalance in women.

It is believed that DHEA is also partly responsible for alcohol tolerance, which is developed over time from long-term use. When alcohol tolerance is raised, alcohol consumption loses its effectiveness and lessens the pleasure of drinking.

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Brain Tissue Differences

It has been found that brain tissue changes in those with type 2 alcoholism has increased levels of AMPA receptors. The AMPA receptor is responsible for mediating fast synaptic transmission in the central nervous system. AMPA receptors also play a role in learning and regulation. This is thought to contribute to the impulsive behavior observed in cases of type 2 alcoholism. In contrast, Type 2 alcoholism appears to affect tissues in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is responsible for helping to regulate appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory. The ECS also mediates the psychoactive effects of marijuana and stress response.

What Do These Similarities And Differences Mean?

According to Dr. Olli Kärkkäinen, “These findings enhance our understanding of changes in the brain that make people prone to alcoholism and that are caused by long-term use. Such information is useful for developing new drug therapies for alcoholism, and for targeting existing treatments at patients who will benefit the most.” It is found that 10-15 percent of the population in Western countries are alcohol dependent. By observing the brain tissue of those with type 1 and 2 alcoholism, researchers are better equipped to help treat the conditions more effectively.

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Contact Alcoholtreatment.netIf you or a loved one struggles with alcoholism, the caring staff at is here to help. We can guide you through the recovery process, offer resources for loved ones who suffer alongside, and provide you with options for treatment that meets your needs. Contact us today for the support and understanding you need.

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