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Thread: Does alcohol affect recovery?

  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Weeks
    Question via email:

    dr.young,does occasional intake of alcohol alter the course of SCI?

    Alcohol, as you know, is ethanol and an intoxicant. At high doses, it depresses neuronal excitability In low doses, it suppresses certain populations of inhibitory neurons (resulting in disinhibiton and a general feeling of release). In higher doses, it starts to affect the vestibular and motor control system, including walking. Finally in very high doses, it shuts down the brain.

    When ingested, alcohol is acted upon in the liver by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. This enzyme breaks down alcohol to aldehyde. The aldehyde is what causes the flushing of the face, the nausea, and the itchy skin that some people have after drinking alcohol. The aldehyde itself is further broken down by an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase.

    People who are missing the aldehyde dehydrogenase get red very quickly and also get sick. People who are missing the alcohol dehydrogenase get drunk very easily, on small amounts of alcohol. About a third of Chinese and Japanese don't have the aldehyde dehydrogenase and turn very red when they drink. About 10% are missing the alcohol dehydrogenase and the American Indians lack this enzyme, and they get drunk very easily.

    So the question to ask is what effect alcohol has on recovery of function. Jeff, if you remember, a group of undergraduate students in the laboratory studied this question once several years ago. We used rats from the alcohol center and then examined whether rats that were on chronic alcohol or acute alcohol made any difference their lesion volumes. If I remember, the study suggested that chronic alcohol did make the lesion volumes bigger but this may be because the rats also lost weight and were metabolically less healthy. It was difficult to rule out the nutritional effects of alcohol.

    There is a great deal of literature on the effects of alcohol on fetuses, i.e Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Alcohol has terrible toxic effects on developing fetuses. Even in relativel low concentrations, it causes death of neurons. Fetuses that develop in alcoholic mothers that drink during their pregnancy are often born severely retarded. This may very well be an effect of alcohol on stem cells. There are many studies on this subject.

    On the other hand, modest use of alcohol, particularly wines, have been touted to be beneficial for health and prolongs life. It is hard to distinguish between the science and the advertisement. But, there have been repeated studies that report that a glass or two or wine reduces the incidence of stroke or heart attacks. It is difficult to know whether this is due to alcohol or some other ingredient in the drink.

    In my opinion, much has been blamed on alcohol over the centuries, often by people who advocate prohibition of alcohol. It is true that alcoholics often develop brain damage, including severe memory loss and confabulation. However, it is unclear whether this is due to the alcohol itself or other toxic materials that are often in cheap alcoholic drinks. Images of the brain have shown actual shrinkage of the brain after years of heavy drinking but I am skeptical about attributing this to ethanol alone.

    There is no question, however, that alcohol does impair memory. In particular, it interferes with the ability of the brain to formnew memories. That is one of the reasons why people who are drunk often cannot remember what they did, even they engaged in fairly intensive goal-directed behaviors such as sexual intercourse and driving. Alcohol has relatively little effect on memories that are already engrained and hence the person's behavior may seem normal. The magnitude of memory impairment is dose-dependent.

    Perhaps the most convincing studies of alcohol effects on the brain come from animal studies. In 2004, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reported that abstinence from chronic alcohol consumption leads to a burst of new cell formation in the brain (Source). The same group had earlier reported that neurodegeneration in rats (Source). But, I want to emphasize that all these animal models involve very high level of alcohol, considerably higher than ones that even drunks usually attain.

    As the following abstract from Nutritional Neuroscience pointed out, long term abuse of alcohol may lead to dementia and a condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff's syndrome. Heaving drinking also is a risk factor for strokes. However, light to moderate drinking may be paradoxically associated with a reduced risk of stroke and brain damage:
    Nutr Neurosci. 2005 Apr;8(2):111-20
    Risk of dementia and alcohol and wine consumption: a review of recent results.

    The term dementia refers to a clinical syndrome of acquired intellectual disturbances produced by brain dysfunction. Dementia may result from a wide variety of disorders, including degenerative (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, AD), vascular (e.g. multi-infarct dementia), and traumatic (e.g. head injury). Long-term abuse of alcohol is related to the development of the Wernicke-Korsakoff’s syndrome or alcohol dementia. However, light to moderate alcohol intake might also reduce the risk of dementia and AD. In Bordeaux (France), a populationbased prospective study found that subjects drinking 3 to 4 standard glasses of wine per day (> 250 and up to 500 ml), categorized as moderate drinkers, the crude odds ratio (OR) was 0.18 for incident dementia (p < 0.01) and 0.25 for Alzheimer’s disease (p < 0.03), as compared to the non-drinkers. After adjusting for age, sex, education, occupation, baseline cognitive performances and other possible confounders, the ORs were respectively 0.19 (p < 0.01) and 0.28 (p < 0.05). In the 922 mild drinkers (< 1 to 2 glasses per day) there was a negative association only with AD. after adjustment (OR = 0.55; p < 0.05). The inverse relationship between moderate wine drinking and incident dementia was explained neither by known predictors of dementia nor by medical, psychological or socio-familial factors. These results were confirmed from data of the Rotterdam study. Light-to-moderate drinking (one to three drinks per day) was significantly associated with a lower risk of any dementia (hazard ratio 0.58 [95% CI 0.38-0.90]) and vascular dementia (hazard ratio 0.29 [0.09-0.93]). No evidence that the relation between alcohol and dementia varied by type of alcoholic beverage was found. Stroke constitutes one of the most common causes of serious functional impairment in developed countries. Ischaemic strokes represent about 80% of all strokes. Several studies have been published and the overall conclusion is that heavy drinking is a risk factor for most stroke subtypes. Regular light to moderate drinking seemed to be associated with a decreased risk for ischaemic stroke.
    Apparently, low concentartions of alcohol increased expression of brain-derived neurotrophic (BDNF) and other factors in the brain. Rats that are allowed to imbibe alcohol freely have higher levels of brain growth factors (Source. The scientists also found out that when they blocked the effects of BDNF, the rats drank more alcohol.

    It is interesting that these effects of modest alcohol intake may be not unlike those of lithium, i.e. stimulation of neurotrophic factor production by the brain. This may be one of the reasons why alcohol has been so popular a drink for humans since the genesis of agriculture and the discovery of fermentation. It helps reduce depression.


  2. #12

    Thumbs down I know it can make your disablity worse

    * give you the sh--ts
    * increase weight gain
    * expand your bladder etc.
    * alcohol and meds. can stop your heart (be careful)

    If you drink, drink in moderation
    Lynarrd Skynyrd Lives

  3. #13
    Senior Member
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    Jun 2005
    Last edited by Leif; 07-18-2006 at 05:46 PM.

  4. #14
    Junior Member MAryKAthryn's Avatar
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    Jun 2006
    Heaven, but i go back and forth to Hell.
    I remember in the At-home rehab Majed was in, his PT told him that drinking (prolly more like in large amts. but anyway) can slow the healing process of the spinal cord and/or nerves (ie. Peripheral Nerves).

    I think she may have just been trying to get Majed NOT to drink DURING THERAPY!!! hahah.......

    but im not sure.

    Interesting thread tho.
    Every morning, he woke up
    fondling the orange watermelon.

  5. #15

    beer? alcohol?

    Hmmm. I wouldn't think that a drink a day would be contraindicative to recovery... As for UTIs, I am genetically predisposed to the darn things! I have 4-5 UTIs a year, and just think if I had a SCI! Yikes! I have ~1 alcoholic drinks per day and I am doing well, knock on wood! I find that the problems occur when I am extremely busy (eg. not being able to run to the bathroom frequently, fully empty my bladder or drink my adaquate amounts of water). I can almost predict when I am headed toward an infection.

  6. #16
    Senior Member
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    Sep 2001
    New York USA
    Who are you kidding? I have three twisted iced teas every day. Not enough alcohol to get a buzz but I can tell you this spasms go away & it runs right through you so I have great output. I'd do take olive leaf that might help with the infections, cranberry juice did not do anything. Might as well drink & enjoy life, not like we will be getting out of this wheelchair anytime soon. I will quit drinking & smoking whenever they find a cure.

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