How Long Does It Take To Develop Wet Brain?

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Heavy drinking and other types of alcohol misuse can bring about psychological issues, including Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, or “wet brain.” This neurological disorder can develop over weeks, months, or years of chronic drinking.

How Long Does It Take To Develop Wet Brain?

People with alcohol use disorder (AUD) may experience a variety of behavioral, physical, and mental health issues.

One common side effect of heavy drinking and alcohol addiction is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, more commonly referred to as “wet brain.”

Below we’ll explore how long it can take for a person to develop this brain disorder, factors that can contribute to it, its signs and symptoms, and treatment options.

What Is Wet Brain Syndrome?

Wet brain syndrome is a neurological disorder resulting from thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency.

There are two stages of wet brain:

  • Wernicke encephalopathy: Considered the first stage of wet brain, symptoms of Wernicke encephalopathy include confusion and motor imbalance.
  • Korsakoff syndrome: Sometimes called Korsakoff psychosis, symptoms of the second stage of wet brain include memory problems.

When Does Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome Develop?

The timeline for Wernicke-Korsakoff development varies. It usually takes several months or years of heavy alcohol use for symptoms to appear.

However, early signs of wet brain may be seen within just a few weeks of chronic alcohol use, along with other AUD symptoms such as nervous system issues.

Poor nutrition, particularly thiamine deficiency, contributes to its onset. Not having enough thiamine is typically linked to chronic alcohol abuse.

Some common signs and symptoms of wet brain include:

  • confusion
  • memory impairment
  • difficulty walking

Factors Influencing Wet Brain Development

Several factors contribute to wet brain syndrome. Wet brain primarily arises as a result of drinking alcohol at a high rate over time, but other factors can also lead to its development.

Key contributors to wet brain include:

  • alcohol consumption: Heavy and prolonged alcohol use depletes thiamine levels, crucial for brain function.
  • nutritional deficiency: Poor diet and malnutrition often accompany alcohol abuse, further reducing thiamine availability.
  • genetics: Genetic predispositions can affect how a person metabolizes alcohol and nutrients.
  • reduced liver function: Impaired liver function reduces thiamine absorption and metabolism.
  • co-existing health conditions: Other health issues can hinder thiamine utilization, exacerbating the risk of wet brain.

Recognizing The Symptoms Of Wet Brain

Recognizing symptoms of wet brain involves vigilance for cognitive and neurological changes, some of which show in the short-term, while others appear later.

In addition to those already mentioned, here are other symptoms and signs of wet brain:

  • loss of muscle coordination and balance, sometimes called ataxia
  • confabulation, or creating false memories in place of new memories
  • eye movement abnormalities
  • cognitive impairment
  • apathy and emotional blunting
  • difficulty concentrating
  • hallucinations or delusions

Short-Term Effects Of Wet Brain

Like other health risks associated with AUD, wet brain carries many dangers to people’s health. In the short-term, it can cause physical and mental defects.

Short-term effects of wet brain include:

  • disorientation
  • mood swings
  • difficulty concentrating
  • slurred speech
  • muscle tremors
  • difficulty walking
  • double vision
  • impaired judgment
  • rapid heartbeat

Long-Term Effects Of Wet Brain

Wet brain can worsen if alcohol abuse goes untreated. Below are some long-term health implications of the neurological disorder.

Long-term effects of wet brain include:

  • permanent brain damage, such as hypothalamus damage and decreased enzyme creation
  • cognitive decline and memory problems
  • memory loss and alcohol dementia
  • severe neurological impairment
  • chronic confusion
  • increased risk of seizures
  • worsening motor skills
  • drooping eyelids
  • decreased quality of life

People who mix alcohol use with other substance use can exacerbate these health risks, some of which may turn into life-threatening medical conditions.

Treatment Of Wet Brain

Recovery from wet brain syndrome is possible through a variety of alcohol and drug addiction treatment interventions along with the adoption of a healthy diet plus supplementation when needed.

This often includes a mix of evidence-based and holistic addiction treatment approaches, along with socialization services if necessary.

Recovery approaches for wet brain include:

  • Thiamine supplementation
  • proper nutrition and a balanced diet
  • abstinence from alcohol
  • medications to manage symptoms and improve brain function
  • therapeutic approaches to addiction, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • group therapy

These options may be available through inpatient facilities or outpatient treatment programs. Detox centers can also be a good place to start the recovery process for some people.

You can also find support from a doctor or private practice therapist or counselor. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 12-step support groups also help many people overcome AUD.

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