Did you know that 88,000 people die annually from causes relating to this substance? Did you know that it is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States, and outpaces many other disorders when it comes to fatalities? In 2014, 9,967 deaths, 31 percent of overall driving fatalities were because of this drug? You may assume that these statistics account for something that is a Schedule I drug, but unfortunately, we are talking about alcohol, which is a perfectly legal substance that can be attained by anyone over the age of 21.

It’s hard to believe that as deadly as alcohol can be that most social circles widely accept it. Even conservative groups, such as religions, use the drink for one reason or another. Alcohol misuse cost the United States $249 billion in 2010 alone, and three-quarters of the cost relates to binge drinking.

Excessive alcohol consumption causes adverse effects on the user, and in some cases, the damage is not reversible. For others, however, you may wonder if the effects of alcohol abuse can be reversed? There are steps someone can take to reverse the damage caused by alcohol, but an essential portion of this process is to abstain from alcohol entirely.

While some of us can enjoy alcohol socially, it’s not a reality for others. The problem with the disease known as addiction is that it can completely consume our lives. We may drink on a Friday after work with friends or coworkers and not crave a drink at all. Others may drink on a Friday, and notice that next weekend it’s Friday and Saturday, and before you know it, there are no days in between drinking. At this point, you’re prone to developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that an estimated 16 million people in the United States suffer from an alcohol use disorder. AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state despite the lack of presence of alcohol.

To be diagnosed with AUD, individuals must meet specific criteria that are outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Anyone who meets two of the 11 criteria during the same 12-month period will receive a diagnosis of AUD; however, it can vary in severity and range from mild to severe.

Someone with a severe AUD is at the highest risk of causing damage to their body, so what steps can they take to reverse the effects of their alcohol abuse?

Alcohol’s Impact On The Brain

Person sitting at a bench with a bottleWhen people participate in heavy drinking and stop, some of the brain damage that occurs may reverse, and some memory loss they experience may stop. Scientists have stated that alcohol causes what is known as “shrinkage” in the brain resulting in cognitive damage; however, this will begin to reverse when alcohol stays out of the body for prolonged periods.

The frontal lobe is the area most likely to be damaged as a result of drinking. The frontal lobe is responsible for high-level skills, such as logical thinking, behavior control, and muscle movements.

Quitting Drinking And New Brain Cells

Studies on rats showed a direct link between alcohol abstinence and an increase in new brain cells. After a four-day experiment where the rats were given alcohol, which caused alcohol dependence, they stopped administering the rats alcohol.

Five weeks after cessation of alcohol, new cell growth took place in another structure of the brain – the hippocampus. Brain cell growth was recorded in as little as seven days.

The Brain Is Impaired In Early Recovery

Addiction specialists have learned not to overwhelm those in early recovery with information. It is in part because our brains remain impaired in earlier recovery, and too much information will affect treatment in the first weeks.

Individuals entering treatment have been found unable to recall information that they just watched in a video. Cognitive functions will begin to improve over time, but individuals can make better use of the information through group therapy, educational programs, and 12-step programs at a later time.

How To Reverse The Effects Of Alcohol Abuse

First and foremost, abstaining from alcohol use in its entirety is the first step to reverse alcohol effects. Some other steps someone can take include:

  • Changes in diet and nutrition
  • Increased exercise (cardio, weightlifting, swimming)
  • Increased social activities (taking the person out of isolation)
  • Learning experiences
  • Medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Therapy

All of these, in conjunction with treatment for an alcohol use disorder, can allow someone to overcome the damage they sustained over years of drinking. Of course, the amount of time it will take to reverse damage will vary from one person to another based on many factors; the only way the process can start is to stop drinking.

If you are unable to stop drinking on your own, there is help available to you. Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous, and medical detoxification is an opportunity to overcome symptoms in a controlled environment.

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