Wet Brain & Alcoholism – What Is It?

Wet Brain - What Is it? The experts at New Life Medical Addiction Services explain

Most people have heard of the term “Wet Brain” but not many know its actual meaning. Wet Brain, known by physicians and addiction care specialists as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome or Korsakoff’s psychosis, is a chronic brain disorder caused by a deficiency in Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) (Vitamin B1), which most often is found in patients who are suffering from alcohol addiction. Wet Brain from alcohol impacts the thalamus and hypothalamus region of the brain and may also result in permanent brain damage and memory problems.

Who Is Impacted By Wet Brain?
Wet Brain is primarily a condition that impacts people who have abused alcohol for long periods of time, however it can also be caused by poor nutrition or from prolonged periods of vomiting due to sickness or other causes.

For alcoholics, the alcohol itself interrupts the body’s ability to properly absorb Vitamin B1. Because of this, many of those who frequently consume large amounts of alcohol or who engage in excessive binge drinking may develop Wet Brain.

Wet Brain is often conflated with other health problems. However, unlike many of the damaging effects of alcohol misuse that develop over time, wet brain typically has a very rapid onset and presents itself in two distinct stages.

Stage 1:
Stage 1 is called Wernicke’s encephalopathy, the symptoms of which include:

    • Confusion
    • A rapid decrease in mental ability
    • Leg tremors
    • Abnormal eye movements
    • Double vision
    • Droopy eyelids
    • Loss of coordination in the muscle
    • Vomiting

Stage 2:
The second stage is called Korsakoff’s psychosis or Korsakoff’s syndrome, the symptoms of which include:

  • Memory loss
  • Inability to form new memories
  • Invented narratives
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that approximately 80 to 90 percent of alcoholics with Wernicke’s encephalopathy will go on to develop Korsakoff’s psychosis.

Is Wet Brain Reversible?
Stage one is completely reversible, but only if it is treated immediately with Vitamin B1 injections. However, if it is left untreated, Wet Brain will progress to stage two, which is only partially reversible. Stage two (Korsakoff’s psychosis) can improve over time with Vitamin B1 and cessation of alcohol consumption, but it can never fully be reversed.

Can Wet Brain Result in Death?
Yes. Left untreated, this condition can result in coma and or death.

Wet Brain in Alcoholics
This disorder occurs in people who abuse alcohol for a number of reasons:

Bad Nutrition:
Patients who suffer from alcohol use disorder are more likely than the general population to have bad diets and nutrition deficits, such as a B1 deficiency. Vitamin B1 doesn’t occur naturally in the body. Instead, it must be ingested by eating foods like whole grains, chicken, dried beans and nuts.

Alcohol also damages and irritates the tissues of the digestive tract, making it hard for the body to absorb the nutrients from food.

Other Health Issues:
People who abuse alcohol are also more likely to suffer from other health problems such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, heart complications and kidney failure. These conditions can cause Vitamin B-1 deficiency and thereby increase a person’s risk of developing this condition.

Excessive Vomiting:
Episodes of vomiting can also severely deplete the body of essential nutrients and vitamins, like Vitamin B1. People with alcohol use disorder may vomit more than someone without the disorder because hangovers and alcohol overdose and poisoning are much more likely to occur on a regular basis.

Do You Have Wet Brain?
The following symptoms are consistent with having this syndrome:

  • Constant vomiting
  • Anemia
  • Deficiencies in key nutrients
  • A poor quality diet high in non-whole grain carbohydrates
  • Rapid weight loss

You may also be suffering from Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome if you have experienced some of these early symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Memory loss
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty in concentrating

The best way to find out if you have wet brain or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is to see a physician, like those at New Life Medical Addiction Services, who specialize in treating those who suffer from alcohol misuse and addiction.

The Treatment
It is important to treat Wet Brain as soon as it is diagnosed. This is because waiting until it progresses to stage two could be more harmful and potentially fatal. There are several different ways to treat wet brain and preventing it from worsening including:

  • Vitamin B1 injection
  • Abstinence from alcohol
  • Adoption of a nutritious and well-balanced diet

Alcohol Detox & Rehab
Once the immediate or life-threatening symptoms of wet brain have been treated, the next step is for the patient to stop using alcohol completely. The first step is alcohol detox. Alcohol withdrawal can kill some patients so detoxing under medical supervision is highly recommended.

If you or someone you know is suffering from alcohol addiction and you don’t know where to turn, talk to the doctors and addiction specialists at New Life. To speak to someone at New Life, call us at: 856-942-3700 or send us a Text Message.

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