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What is Wet Brain?

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Understanding Wet Brain

Overcoming an alcohol use disorder can mean traveling down a rough road, but you can do it. Suppose you want to leave alcohol behind and are ready to accept the help and support that knowledgeable professionals can give you. In that case, you can reach your goal of sobriety, and it doesn’t matter how heavily you have been drinking. Heavy drinking can lead to a condition known as “wet brain,” but the medical community has the means to confront it.


What Is Wet Brain?

Wet Brain is the commonly used term for “Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.” It is a brain disorder that can be very deadly.


Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome includes Wernicke’s encephalopathy, which causes changes in a person’s vision, abnormal eye movements, lack of muscular coordination, and confusion. It usually lasts for a brief time but can also be very severe.


Wernicke’s Encephalopathy

This condition is degenerative and is caused by thiamine or Vitamin B1 deficiency. It damages the brain’s hypothalamus and thalamus. In most cases, early treatment of this disorder can lead to a complete reversal of the syndrome. If the affected person ceases consuming alcohol immediately, the alcohol will not be able to continue harming the person’s nerve cells and brain.

After people experience Wernicke’s encephalopathy, they begin to have Korsakoff’s amnesic syndrome. It may also appear at the same time as Wernicke’s encephalopathy. This portion of the syndrome is a chronic condition that significantly impairs memory and learning and prevents people from functioning normally. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome or WKS came to be known as “wet brain” because most people who contract this illness have spent several years involved in heavy alcoholic drinking.


Korsakoff’s Amnesic Syndrome

This syndrome is associated with alcohol use disorder. It also damages portions of the brain, but in this case, the nerve cells and supporting cells in the brain and spinal cord are also affected. In addition, the section of the brain that controls memory is negatively affected by this syndrome. The symptoms of Korsakoff’s syndrome are amnesia, disorientation, and coma. A person with Korsakoff’s syndrome has difficulties learning new things and remembering old memories.

Extensive alcohol consumption can lead to a thiamine deficiency. When thiamine begins to be deficient in people’s systems, they begin to experience the symptoms of WKS. Approximately 80% of people diagnosed with a severe alcohol use disorder become deficient in thiamine. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms or the medical complications that heavy alcohol use causes are a lot like the symptoms that WKS causes. Before people can be diagnosed with WKS, they need to be sober when experiencing symptoms.


Statistics on Heavy Drinking

In 2019, 25.8% of adults reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month. In addition, 6.3% of adult men and 4.5% of adult women stated they had engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month.


A new trend appears to be taking hold in the United States. It is known as “high-intensity drinking,” when a male or a female drinks alcohol at two or more times the level of the gender-specific binge drinking thresholds. In addition to that, more than 140,000 people die of alcohol-related causes every year.


How Are Alcohol and Wet Brain Related?

Vitamin B1 is called “thiamine,” an essential nutrient the entire body needs. People can only obtain thiamine through their diets, but their brains, hearts, and nerves can be damaged if they do not ingest enough. The abuse of alcohol is the main reason Americans are diagnosed with thiamine deficiency.


Alcohol abuse causes thiamine deficiency because many people do not consume balanced meals daily. Malabsorption also leads to thiamine deficiencies. Because they are not eating balanced meals, they are not obtaining enough thiamine throughout the day.


Absorption is also a factor. The body receives thiamine after it moves through the gastrointestinal tract. Then, it completes its journey into the body’s tissues. If people drink alcohol heavily, the body cannot absorb as much thiamine. When people drink alcohol, their digestive tracts become inflamed, making it even more difficult for the body to absorb thiamine.


Heavy drinking affects thiamine absorption in another way as well. When people drink heavily, the body has a more challenging time processing thiamine. Then, it cannot effectively use thiamine in its cells. People need thiamine to build enzymes so the body can process and convert sugar into energy. It also creates the brain’s chemical messengers and requires genetic material within the body’s cells.


A Guide to Withdrawal

Detoxification from alcohol can cause mild to severe withdrawal symptoms. Six hours after you have your last drink, the following mild withdrawal symptoms begin, and they include the following:


  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Shaky Hands
  • Anxiety


After 12 to 48 hours have passed after you took your last drink, the withdrawal symptoms become more severe and include the following:


  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures


After 48 to 72 hours after your last drink, you may experience the following:


  • Delirium Tremens with Hallucinations and Delusions
  • Confusion
  • Racing Heart
  • Hypertension
  • Fever
  • Heavy Sweating


Get Help with an Alcohol Use Disorder

If you or a loved one are experiencing Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, the medical community advises you to abstain from alcohol. This may require that you obtain treatment for an alcohol use disorder. Granite Recovery Centers treat alcohol use disorder in our medical detox program. Then, we provide you with ongoing treatment in our inpatient treatment program.


The Advantages of a Medical Detox Program

You can complete the detoxification process independently, but this is not advisable. If you have been consuming alcohol for several years, you will likely experience delirium tremens if you stop your alcohol consumption without medical help. The symptoms can be severe, including seizures, hallucinations, and an increased heart rate. These symptoms require that you obtain emergency medical treatment.

By entering the medical detox program at Granite Recovery Centers, you will undergo detoxification in a safe environment with medical supervision. The medical staff will administer benzodiazepines approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat alcohol use disorder. In addition, because the consumption of alcohol leads to malnutrition, you will also receive vitamin supplements.


Who Is Likely to Have Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

If you are addicted to alcohol or have been drinking heavily daily, you should not try to reduce your alcohol consumption alone. You cannot safely taper off alcohol because you are at an exceptionally high risk of experiencing AWS. In addition, if you have experienced withdrawal symptoms or undergone a detoxification program, your risk of developing AWS is high.


The Good News in Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Most people diagnosed with alcohol withdrawal syndrome, or AWS, recover entirely. After receiving treatment, you may experience fatigue, irritability, and sleep disturbances for several months, but the outlook is good for you if you get treatment as soon as possible.


Types of Treatment Available

At Granite Recovery Centers, we offer evidence-based treatments that ensure you will enjoy long-term sobriety. For this purpose, we offer the following:


Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy teaches skills that address how you regulate your emotions and conduct your interpersonal relationships. This therapy uses emotion regulation, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and mindfulness as its main focuses. You will develop skills within these modules in one-on-one sessions with your therapist and group therapy.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

With CBT, you will learn skills to stop the negative thoughts and patterns leading to your maladaptive behaviors. Your therapist will teach you to recognize the maladaptive thought or behavior so that you can interrupt it. Then, you will learn to challenge those thoughts with positive thinking through writing in a journal, learning relaxation techniques, role-playing, and mental redirecting.


Relapse Prevention Material

The Matrix Model has been studied for over 20 years, and the Granite Recovery Centers use it as part of its treatment modality. Along with relapse prevention, the Matrix Model will supply early recovery skills, social support, family education, and individual and conjoint therapy.


Dual Diagnosis Treatment

People with a substance use disorder likely have a mental health disorder. Addiction specialists believe the best way to treat someone with co-occurring conditions is to treat both disorders simultaneously. At Granite Recovery Centers, we can offer you dual diagnosis treatment.


Granite Recovery Centers

Many people fear entering a detox center, but this is best for you or your loved one when you struggle with an alcohol use disorder. Detoxing in a treatment center will be a much more pleasant experience than when you tried detoxing on your own. So, give us a call today, and we will perform a complete assessment of your addiction, determine if you have any concurrent conditions, such as depression, and place you in one of our detoxification programs. After you complete the detoxification process, you will progress to the treatment program that is right for you. Call us today to get started on your journey to sobriety.