A recent study by scientists at the University of Texas has alcohol and drug rehab patients concerned. Alcohol and drug treatment center doctors tell their patients that cirrhosis is a common threat to heavy drinkers. What alcohol and drug rehab doctors did not know until this point was the effect of a cirrhotic liver on brain function.
Alcohol and drug rehab patients who already have cirrhosis realize their chances of survival are slim. Many of these alcohol and drug treatment center patients must wait for news that they will be granted a liver transplant, which is increasing more difficult for someone with alcoholism. Alcoholic patients must be clean and sober for a certain amount of time before they can be considered for a transplant. Many of these patients remain in a drug and alcohol rehab to stay safe from temptation, hoping they can survive long enough for a transplant. In that time, their brains may be eroding as well as their livers.
Researchers from the University of Texas have found that cirrhosis of the liver, a common complication of alcoholism, increases brain damage. Dr. R. Dayne Mayfield was the lead researcher of the study. He and his colleagues found that cirrhotic alcoholics have more impaired brain function than non-cirrhotic alcoholics.
The results of the study were published in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
Mayfield explained, "The liver's main function is to remove poisons from the blood.. It also helps the body absorb certain nutrients like fats and fat-soluble vitamins. You cannot live without a functioning liver."
About 10 to 20 percent of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis, according to Mayfield. Cirrhosis is the 7th leading cause of death for young and middle aged adults in the U.S. Over 10,000 deaths a year from cirrhosis are attributed to heavy alcohol consumption.
Mayfield says cirrhotic liver patients have abnormal livers that cannot remove poisons form the blood stream. As a result, the poisons move into the brain and cause brain dysfunction.
He asserts, "When a gene or deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is 'turned on, it serves as a template for synthesis of ribonucleic acid (RNA), which in turn produces protein, the key element in cell function. These 'genes' hold the key or code for the ultimate production of proteins that control all functions of the brain. We know that heavy alcohol drinking changes the regulation of genes in the brain. We predicted that alcohol-related changes in brain genes would be magnified in alcoholics with cirrhosis."
The researchers obtained brain samples from a brain bank in Sydney Australia. They compared samples taken from two groups. One group had cirrhosis, the other did not.