A new report from Alcohol Concern Wales says alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) is poorly understood by the public and many healthcare professionals.
'All in the mind: Meeting the challenge of alcohol-related brain damage' emphasises that ARBD is not a progressive condition, meaning it does not inevitably worsen, and so can be successfully treated. Early identification and treatment is therefore crucial.
The term alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) covers a range of conditions, including Wernicke-Korsakoff’s Syndrome, with a variety symptoms, including confusion, memory loss and other impaired cognitions. ARBD is a result of the physical damage that alcohol does to brain tissue, coupled with a lack of Vitamin B1, also resulting from heavy drinking.
Although less common than many other alcohol-related conditions, Alcohol Concern say ARBD represents a serious public health challenge, and remains very much overlooked and misunderstood. To improve the prevention and treatment of ARBD, Alcohol Concern makes recommendations including:
- Raising awareness of ARBD and its symptoms amongst the general public and professionals, to increase detection and dispel stereotypes about who develops the condition
- Providing better training for health and social care professionals on how to recognise ARBD
- Drawing up a clear care pathway for the diagnosis and treatment of ARBD, including guidance on the best use of Vitamin B1 to treat the condition.
In a BBC story, Alcohol Concern Cymru director Andrew Misell said:
"Most of us know that alcohol can damage our liver, but the fact that it could undermine our long-term brain function is much less well known. Staff on the front line have been seeing younger people and other people who don't fit the stereotype of a homeless dependent drinker coming in with ARBD.
Once again, our willingness to see alcohol problems as someone else's problem, confined to an extreme group of obvious drinkers, is keeping us from seeing the elephant on our doorstep. We hope this paper will be a wake-up call for all of us who drink."