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What is a Wet Brain? Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholic Dementia

What is Wet Brain Signs and Symptoms og=f Alcoholic Dementia Resurgence Behavioral Health

What is Wet Brain?

“Wet Brain” is a slang term that is used to describe a neurological disorder of the brain called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome that is caused by a Thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency that comes from alcohol abuse in most cases. Some other names people use when speaking about this syndrome include:

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  • Alcohol dementia
  • Wernicke’s encephalopathy
  • Korsakoff psychosis
  • Alcoholic encephalopathy
  • Encephalopathy-alcoholic
  • Wernicke’s dementia
  • Wernicke’s disease

It is a severe and life-threatening brain disorder that may be reversible if treated as soon as it is diagnosed but can lead to long-term, irreversible effects like confusion or hallucinations, and difficulty with muscle coordination over time, ultimately shortening a person’s lifespan.

How Alcohol Affects the Brain

People who are addicted to alcohol have a much higher likelihood of developing this syndrome, because heavy alcohol use when combined with long-term poor nutrition, may lead to deficiencies in important nutrients like thiamine (vitamin B1). Alcohol also causes inflammation of the digestive tract, making it even more difficult for the body to absorb thiamine from food.

Thiamine is an essential building block that creates enzymes that process and converts sugar into energy, creates chemical messengers in the brain, and genetic cell material.

The lack of Thiamine in the body’s system causes the brain to be unable to send messages or create enough energy, as well as causing damage to the heart and nervous system, creating side effects that may look and feel like withdrawal symptoms and dementia symptoms.

Symptoms of Wet Brain

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is comprised of two different conditions that occur at the same time:

1.   Wernicke’s Encephalopathy  

“Wet Brain” begins with symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy that is severe but may be temporary if treated by a doctor. It is a short-term neurological disorder with symptoms that include abnormal eye movements and vision changes, mental confusion, and apathy, along with loss of muscle coordination when walking or standing, resulting in a staggering motion or a completely lost ability to walk. 

Wernicke’s encephalopathy can cause the eyes to become paralyzed, with drooping eyelids and difficulty in proper tracking. A person does not need to exhibit all three of these symptoms to be diagnosed with this disorder, making it more difficult to diagnose outside of a holistic treatment center that takes all parts of the person into account including personality changes, diet, and routine. The quicker treatment is provided, the better the outcome will be.

2.   Korsakoff Syndrome

The symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy are directly followed by the side effects of Korsakoff syndrome in around 80% to 90% of people who abuse alcohol. This is a type of neuropsychiatric dementia and is a psychosis that is chronic and is seen as the result of not having treated Wernicke’s encephalopathy quickly enough.

Korsakoff Syndrome is also referred to as “alcoholic dementia” or “alcohol amnestic disorder”, and has characteristics like hallucinations, behavior changes, and amnesia, while producing learning and memory impairment, creating issues with forming new memories causing the person to fabricate stories to fill in their memory gaps (a condition known as anterograde amnesia) and having the overall effect of interfering with a person’s ability to function normally.

This disease causes brain damage, which may result in the person not realizing anything is wrong or recognizing the symptoms in themselves, while becoming irritable, apathetic, or not displaying emotions at all.

Common symptoms of Wet Brain include:

  • Decreased muscle coordination
  • Leg tremors
  • Vision changes
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Behavioral changes
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Frustration and irritability
  • Lies, or making up stories
  • Difficulty and resistance
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations

Wet Brain can lead to reduced consciousness, coma and unfortunately may drastically reduce a person’s life expectancy, leading to death if untreated by medical professionals.

Is Alcohol Dementia Treatable?

Alcohol dementia is treatable, and with proper care and nutrition, the symptoms and potential risks can be relieved and sometimes eliminated. It depends on how severe the symptoms are, and at what point in the progression of this disease the person begins treatment, as well as the types of treatment they receive.

Diagnosing the Wet Brain is difficult and takes tests such as checking Vitamin B1 levels, performing cognitive assessments, blood tests, neurological screening, and ruling out other illnesses. As it mimics the symptoms of other disorders, it is hard to pin down, especially because the patient must be sober to properly diagnose Wet Brain, as withdrawal and other issues with alcohol use can have similar side effects to this brain disorder.

Once a diagnosis is given, a tailored treatment plan will be designed which includes:

  • Quitting drinking immediately
  • Thiamine therapy
  • Nutrition plans
  • Therapy and support groups

Some people will make a full recovery, although this is a rare outcome. Varying levels of improvement are usually seen within 5 to 12 days of beginning Thiamine treatments.

Treatment Programs for Alcohol Addiction

The main way a person diagnosed with Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome is treated is through intensive thiamine supplementation, via intravenous injection, intramuscular injection, or taken as an oral supplement. High doses of thiamine are one of the most effective treatment methods and can result in full or partial recovery, with the best results achieved if the condition is caught early. Other vitamins and supplements may also be given to support the body’s natural thiamine production and absorption.

Alongside these treatments, the person suffering from Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome must also stop drinking alcohol, and the best method of detoxification and long-term alcohol abstention is to enter a professional alcohol rehab program. Alcoholism is a serious disease that requires a lot more than just “putting down the drink”. There are underlying causes of addiction that need to be addressed, along with the creation of healthy habits, changing unproductive mindsets to more useful ways of thinking, and working through any trauma or co-occurring mental health issues that may come with alcoholism.

Stopping drinking may slow the progression of Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome and improve the chronic symptoms that come with it. At Resurgence Behavioral Health, we can help you or your loved one stop drinking and remain in recovery for good through our integrated detox and rehab programs.

Alcohol Rehab Treatment at Resurgence

A resurgence is a place you can come for not only addiction treatment, but also community, support, and caring people to talk to when you are having a tough time, even long after treatment is over. Our staff is caring and professional, and truly want to help each patient who comes through our doors. We focus on you as a person, not just an addiction, which is especially good for those dealing with health issues such as Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome. Our holistic treatment plans include medical care and different types of therapy and health plans to get you back on track. Using trauma-informed treatment methods, we will keep you safe, healthy, and comfortable as you detoxify your body, and rehabilitate, becoming a stronger, sober version of yourself.

Our detox programs are Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) plans that are customized to best help each patient. They include:

  • 24-hour monitoring to make sure you remain healthy, with nursing staff onsite daily to oversee things
  • Therapy and counseling to help you begin the process of making behavioral and psychological changes needed to remain in long-term recovery
  • FDA-approved, prescription medications which can be given as needed to assist in helping you rest, stop uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and prevent dangerous withdrawal symptoms like seizures from happening
  • Dual diagnosis treatments may be given to people who are also dealing with mental health issues and trauma, to treat all these conditions at the same time

Once you are medically stable enough, you may move into a predetermined rehab program. There are no surprises. These programs are chosen for what best suits your specific recovery needs and your life. For many, inpatient rehab is the first step. This is a 30- to 90-day program in which you live inside our facility, with full medical and psychiatric care and a supportive community of peers and professionals. Your days will be structured, with treatments and options like:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Experiential therapy
  • Trauma-informed therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Physical fitness and nutritional counseling
  • Offsite outings to local attractions
  • Sober living home referrals

We also offer a full spectrum of outpatient programs that include our Partial Hospitalization Program and our Intensive Outpatient Program, which are beneficial for people who may not be able to leave their family, work, school, or other important responsibilities behind for 30+ days, as well as those transitioning back to life from an inpatient program. In outpatient rehab, you live at home or in a sober living facility, coming to an outpatient center a determined amount of time each week for treatment.

Our aftercare programs are extensive, with connections to our vibrant alumni community, 12-step, and SMART recovery groups in your area, medical and psychiatric care, and other sober community groups and events. With Resurgence, you will never be alone in your recovery. Contact us today to learn more about treatment for alcohol addiction, and how we can help you to regain your health and take back control over your life.

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