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Alcoholism and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

  • anonymous Asks ...

    My ex-husband and father of my child is a chronic alcoholic and was already showing signs of brain damage from the disease in 1997. He is a chronic alcoholic and basically drinks every waking moment. He had a bad fall recently and had to undergo emergency brain surgery. He is in a coma (not drug induced) and on a ventilator. I need some more info on the chances of him recovering from this. I am certain that by now he has severe wet brain syndrome and he has also had a couple of operations on his pancreas. I need to be able to tell my son what the probable outcome of this latest catastrophe is going to be. Please could you help. I am a member of Al-Anon and have a great understanding of this terrible disease.

  • Dr. James Strawbridge Says ...
    Dr. James Strawbridge

    Heavy alcohol consumption for extended periods of time has extensive and far-reaching effects on every organ of the body. The effects on the brain can range from 'slips' in memory to permanent and debilitating conditions.

    Research has shown a high deficiency of thiamine in the diet and heavy alcohol consumption for an extended period of time to be a bad combination. In worse cases people will go on to develop serious brain disorders such as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.


    According the the National Institute on alcohol and alcoholism, “WKS is a disease that consists of two separate syndromes, a short-lived and severe condition called Wernicke's encephalopathy and a long-lasting condition as Korsakoff's psychosis.


    Patients with Korsakoff's psychosis are forgetful and quickly frustrated and have difficulty with walking and coordination. Although these patients have problems remembering old information, it is their difficulty in “laying down” new information that is most stricking. For example, these patients can discuss in detail an event in their lives, but an hour later might not remember ever having the conversation. Cases of this type may require a lifetime custodial care, enduring love and patience.


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