Alcohol is a neurotoxin and a poison that can damage the brain. The damage is also called Alcohol Related Brain Injury (ARBI). Drugs like hallucinogens, depressants, and stimulants can also cause brain impairments. Also, people under the influence of drugs or alcohol are at higher risk of accidents causing Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
In this article, we’ll go through everything you should know about ARBI and other types of brain injury. We’ll also cover the effects of the drugs above and how they can cause brain damage. After that, I’ll show you how psilocybin may reverse alcohol-induced brain damage with research evidence.
Alcohol-Related Brain Injury
Alcohol consumption at moderate to high levels over a long period can cause ARBI. Excessive alcohol intake, even for a short period, can also cause ARBI. Short-term intake can also affect judgment, balance, and coordination and reduce inhibitions. All of these are factors that can trigger Traumatic Brain Injury.
One of the key factors contributing to ARBI is Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) deficiency. This is one of the essential nutrients that the brain requires to stay healthy. However, the body does not produce thiamine, and it must be present in the food we eat. Alcohol alters the effective absorption of thiamine by causing swelling in the stomach lining. Coupled with a poor diet, the level of thiamine becomes extremely low in the body.
ARBI can also lead to other health issues, which may include:
- Reckless behaviour and impulsivity
- Lack of motivation
- Social isolation
- Concentration issues and distractibility
- Mood disorders and depression
- Impaired judgement and lack of self-awareness
Also, there are different types of ARBI, and this depends on the location of the brain injury.
- Korsakoff’s amnesic syndrome: Occurs due to high thiamine deficiency
- Wernicke’s encephalopathy: Can also occur due to high thiamine deficiency
- Frontal lobe dysfunction: Alters behaviour, personality, and cognition
- Hepatic encephalopathy: Occurs due to liver disease
- Peripheral neuropathy: Can cause sensory issues with feet, legs, and hands
- Cerebellar atrophy: Can affect coordination and balance
Other Drug-Related Brain Injury
Most drugs are toxic, and their toxicity differs according to the type of drug and the amount taken. Drug abuse and misuse can lead to one of these consequences:
- Hypoxic brain injury
- Heart attack
There are three different categories of psychoactive drugs, and this is according to their effect on the central nervous system. The three different classes are stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens.
One thing to note is that there’s a potential for drug interactions to occur after taking different drugs together. The interaction can be between recreational substances, prescription medications, supplements, over-the-counter medicines, herbal remedies, and vitamins. These interactions may be very serious and require urgent attention in some cases.
These are drugs that stimulate the central nervous system to increase physical activity and alertness. Examples of these drugs are methylphenidates, pseudoephedrine, nicotine, caffeine, ecstasy, cocaine, amphetamines, and betel nuts.
Depressants are drugs that depress the central nervous system. They can cause a lack of concentration, disinhibition, reduced coordination, relaxation, and euphoria in small doses. Larger doses can cause loss of consciousness and even death.
Examples of depressants are antipsychotics, antihistamines, alpha and beta-blockers, sedatives, muscle relaxants, anticonvulsants, opioids, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, cannabis and alcohol.
These are drugs that can affect thinking, emotion, sensations, and perceptions. Examples of hallucinogens are mescaline, LSD, and psilocybin, which are found in magic truffles. However, recent research shows that psilocybin can reverse alcohol-induced brain damage. We’ll explore the research evidence below.
How Psilocybin May Reverse Alcohol-Induced Brain Damage According to Research
Researchers have been looking for different ways to treat alcohol use disorders for close to half a century now. Among the explored options include the use of psychedelics, which have shown great potential. Today, scientists are exploring the findings from previous research to fully understand this potential.
In a recent study, researchers were able to show the effectiveness of psilocybin and psychedelic. The results show how the substance can repair areas of the brain that trigger alcohol cravings. This also gave an idea of its potential in managing alcohol use disorders.
The study is in the Science Advances journal, and it’s a continuation of research from the late 1950s. This was the time when Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond administered LSD to alcoholics. Their research results show that about 45% of patients were still sober a year after receiving the drug. This was a remarkable feat in managing the condition.
Studies show that alcohol consumption is responsible for up about 6% of deaths globally. That is why treatments to eliminate cravings are highly required.
Brief Background of the New Study
To fully understand this new study, we need to examine the brain’s neurobiology. The prefrontal cortex of the brain is the part that mediates cognitive functions like impulse control, cognitive flexibility, and attention. Previous studies also show that chronic and intermittent alcohol use can cause negative effects on prefrontal cortex neurons.
One of the co-authors of the study, Marcus Meinhardt, gave an account of how his team identified the effects of alcohol on glutamate receptors. The receptor is metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 2 (mGluR2).
Glutamate is one of the neurotransmitters that are responsible for proper brain functioning. When the receptors are compromised, the neurotransmitter does not get to the appropriate receptors. Alcohol can also alter the production of glutamate. mGluR2 loss can occur following excessive alcohol consumption.
Psilocybin is a serotonergic psychedelic, meaning that it works on the brain’s serotonin receptors. Studies also show that mGluR2 and serotonin receptors can influence other functions, and psilocybin can act on both receptors.
Main Research and Findings
In the study, they used alcohol vapour to intoxicate mice for seven weeks. During that period, they monitored the behaviour of the mice and the molecular changes in their brain. The research had three groups
- Control group
- Higher dose psilocybin
- Lower dose psilocybin
In line with the hypothesis, mGluR2 was lower in the brains of mice with alcohol dependency. It was alongside higher alcohol cravings and lower executive function. This implies that alcohol dependency introduced changes in the brains of the mice.
For people with alcohol addiction, alcohol use disorder can become very severe with time. The mice’s brain was able to show how different functions change following alcohol use. However, the exciting part of the research is that the mice groups on psilocybin had their mGluR2 expression in full. This finding is similar to the 1950s research findings using LSD.
Hope for the Future
The findings from the research are promising, but it was on mice, and we are humans. However, what we do know is that the expression of mGluR2 in humans with alcohol use disorder is lower. Also, psilocybin is a promising treatment option for people with alcohol use disorders, even though research is still ongoing.
There are still plenty of things that you can learn about psilocybin and how it’s promising in managing different health conditions. You can learn more on our blog because we have gone through different topics.
Some of these topics include:
- Why psychedelic retreats are popular
- Evidence to show that psilocybin might be better than antidepressants
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