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Can Juvenile Brain Injury Increase Risk of Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is an illness that affects a large number of people all over the world. Nobody chooses to become an alcoholic, and there are varying reasons why individuals become dependent on this substance. Alcoholism develops gradually. It begins with exposure, followed by habitual drinking. This can then progress to dependency before the person becomes addicted.

There are numerous reasons people drink including boredom, curiosity, peer pressure, or just to help them cope with the stress of a traumatic event. However, new studies have revealed that alcoholism could be a greater risk to females who suffered a knock to the head when they were younger.

Reversible Condition

Researchers at Ohio State University in the US have found that females who suffered a concussion before the age of twelve have a higher risk of developing alcohol addiction; nevertheless, the same link was not apparent in males.

The link between concussion and alcoholism is due to changes in the brain’s nerve fibres, according to researchers, but the good news is that this effect can be reversed. Tests carried out on mice found that those that were offered exercise options and more toys did not suffer from increased drinking.

According to Dr Zachary Weil, the conditions imposed were intended to be similar to those provided to humans after a mild closed-head brain injury. He said, “We wanted to demonstrate that this effect is not set in stone at the time of injury. There are always ways to intervene, but they’re expensive in terms of both effort and money. It requires sustained treatment and rehabilitation and educational support.”

He said socioeconomic status should not be a factor in terms of childhood brain injury and that everyone should get the medical care and rehabilitation they need. According to Dr Weil, it is essential that alcohol misuse is prevented if possible as this will improve ‘chances for a good life’.

Alcohol and Brain Injuries

There is already a strong link between traumatic brain injuries and alcohol, with more than a third of people who suffer concussion being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the injury. The aim of the study was to determine if those who had a previous injury as a child would be more likely to drink heavily in later life and, therefore, be at greater risk of a more severe injury to the brain. The results showed that there is evidence to suggest heavier drinking is more likely in those with a previous brain injury.

Tests on mice that were given concussion at 21 days old showed that the females were more likely to drink from a bottle containing ethanol than one with just water. Male mice were not affected. However, when tests showed that the concussion did not affect the way the mice processed the alcohol, further tests were carried out to explore if the female mice were attracted by reward sensations. There was strong evidence to suggest that the female mice that had the injuries were drawn to alcohol.

Reversing the Effect

Some of the mice were then placed in enriched environments with new experiences every week for a period of six weeks. Other mice were placed in standard living conditions. Those in the improved environments saw a drop in alcohol intake as well as reduced axon damage in their brain. Follow-up studies are planned to see if hormones play a role in the increased risk of alcoholism for males and females with childhood brain injuries.

Help for Alcoholism

Alcoholism affects both men and women of all ages, but help is available. Rehab Helper is a referral service working hard to ensure that those affected by addiction get the help they need. If you or a loved one needs help for addiction, contact us today.

Source: Daily Mail

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