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Get The Facts

Alcohol-related brain injury (ARBI)

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Causes of brain injury

Alcohol-related brain injury (ARBI)

Alcohol is a poison, or neurotoxin, that can cause physical injury to the brain. 

Alcohol-related brain injury (ARBI) can not only occur from extremely high levels of alcohol due to binge drinking, but also from more moderate alcohol intake but over a long period of time.  Alcohol has a toxic effect on the central nervous system, disrupts the intake vitamin B1, and also causes dehydration which can affect brain cells.


Effects of alcohol-related brain injury

Similar to other types of brain injury, ARBI can result in:

  • impaired judgment and self-awareness
  • social isolation
  • depression and mood disorders
  • lack of motivation
  • distractibility and concentration issues
  • impulsivity and reckless behaviour. 


Types of alcohol-related brain injury

Like other types of brain injury, it varies from mild to severe in its effects and various types of ARBI result from where the brain injury occurs: 


  • Cerebellar atrophy causes balance and coordination issues
  •  Peripheral neuropathy - sensory issues with the hands, feet and legs
  • Hepatic encephalopathy as an outcome of liver disease
  • Frontal lobe dysfunction affecting cognition, behaviour and personality
  • Wernicke's encephalopathy caused by extreme thiamine deficiency
  • Korsakoff's amnesic syndrome with severe short-term memory deficits.


Is recovery from ARBI possible?

Effects vary from person to person, as does the potential for recovery. Some improvement may result when a person stops using alcohol and maintains a healthy diet. The brain has only a limited ability to heal itself so improvements may actually be due to effective rehabilitation as the person learns to compensate for lost skills and abilities. 


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