Complications from Alcohol

Complications from Alcohol


What is it?

Alcohol consumption can have both acute and chronic effects on our cognitive function. Acute cognitive effects can be seen in direct intoxication which impairs our cognitive abilities. Excessive and chronic alcohol use can be detrimental to our brain function resulting in alcohol related brain injury.

Wernicke encephalopathy (WE) is an acute neurological condition characterised by a clinical triad of ophthalmoplegia, ataxia, and confusion. The onset of WE is typically sudden and is a consequence of a severe lack of thiamine. It is a medical emergency and needs to be treated promptly. Key parts of the brain may suffer damage through marked levels of thiamine deficiency.


Alcohol misuse can also lead to brain damage as a consequence of:

  • Biological stress of repeated alcohol intoxication and withdrawal
  • Alcohol-related cerebrovascular disease
  • Head injuries sustained when inebriated.


What are the typical cognitive and behavioural characteristics?

Alcohol related brain injury varies from individual to individual, however, symptoms include the following:

Behavioural characteristics
  • Balance issues
  • Slurred speech
  • Nystagmus
  • Poor impulse control
  • Maintenance of alcohol use
Cognitive issues
  • Slowed rate of processing
  • Impaired ability to learn new information
  • Memory difficulties
  • Difficulties with holding and manipulating information in mind
  • Impaired planning and organisational abilities
  • Poor judgement


How can an assessment help?

Neuropsychological assessment is central to identifying and determining the extent of alcohol related cognitive impairment. Neuropsychologists are skilled in taking into consideration the full clinical history of an individual such as a detailed alcohol history, other coexisting medical conditions (e.g., vascular issues) and psychological health. This provides a clearer picture of the underlying aetiology of cognitive impairment, and reveals the extent of alcohol related impairment. Our neuropsychologists can provide appropriate recommendations to recovery and management, including recommendations to community support services to assist with managing alcohol related complications.


How does Invictus Health do things differently?

At Invictus Health, we place importance on seeing the individual as a whole person and consider the biopsychosocial impacts that is part and parcel of the complexities of life. We have considerable experience with working with clients who have had complex histories of alcohol and substance use and dependence. In addition to providing comprehensive assessments of the client’s cognitive abilities, our neuropsychologists work closely with community and support staff to assist with treatment, abstinence, and providing input on necessary supports for the client.


By: Invictus Health

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