Illustration of alcohols impact on the human brain. Illustration of alcohols impact on the human brain.

Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Cause a ‘Wet Brain’

A wet brain: does it not sound almost impossible? Does this mean that somehow there is water inside your brain making it wet? Or does it mean that some kind of condition prevails in the brain which makes it wet in some other form?

But if you think about anatomically having water in the brain, that sounds like a disaster, right? So, what exactly is a wet brain, let’s get to know more about it and how it can be caused.

1. What Causes a ‘Wet Brain’?

If a person consumes a lot of alcohol for a prolonged period of time, then they can experience damage in the brain which is permanent in some cases, and this condition is known as a ‘wet brain’.

What happens when someone consumes a lot of alcohol is that the body becomes deficient in vitamin B or thiamine. The deficiency of thiamine hampers a lot of bodily functions. Vitamin B is among those vitamins that are required by the body more, as compared to other vitamins.

Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (Medical Condition)
Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (Source: Medical Condition Information)

For the brain, thiamine is very necessary, as enzymes and neurotransmitters both require thiamine. Due to this, when there is a lack of thiamine in the body and brain, it leads to brain damage, known as a ‘wet brain’.

2. How Does Drinking Large Amounts of Alcohol Cause Thiamine Deficiency?

When a person consumes a lot of alcohol, it affects them in various ways and one of the major effects is that their diet gets limited, restricted, and somewhat reduced. When the diet is reduced, it automatically reduces the amount of thiamine intake.

This symptom is usually experienced in people who experience alcohol addiction. You need to consume a well-balanced diet if you drink a lot of alcohol to create some sort of equilibrium.

But there is another problem with it, even if you are consuming a very healthy and nutritious diet while consuming a lot of alcohol, then you will still experience problems.

healthy vs cirrhotic liver comparison
Comparison between a Healthy Liver and a Liver with Cirrhosis (Source: Depositphotos)

This is because when you have a very heavy consumption, your body also has outflows in the form of vomiting, nausea, increased urination, and diarrhea which in turn averts the thiamine intake all over again, reducing the amount of thiamine in your body.

Another problem is that alcohol consumption also affects the overall working of the liver, reducing its efficiency. Due to this, the time to convert thiamine to a usable form in the liver also increases which reduces the thiamine availability.

Studies have shown that in Western countries, 30-80% of alcoholics are thiamine deficient, thus putting them at a higher risk of developing Wernicke–Korsakoff (WK) syndrome.

3. Stages of ‘Wet Brain’

There are two stages of ‘wet brain’, depending upon the effects and duration. Let’s understand both based on the symptoms observed in each.

3.1. Wernicke Encephalopathy

The early stage of the ‘wet brain’ is known as Wernicke-Korsakoff. During this stage, the major symptoms experienced include rapid eye movement, muscle weakness, increased confusion, and visual and auditory hallucinations.

Vision problems, extreme trauma-like conditions that might adversely affect everyday functions like walking, personality changes, and sometimes even coma-like states.

hospice care final moments
Coma-like Conditions can be Caused by ‘Wet Brain’ (Source: Depositphotos)

It is caused by inflammation in the brain. Although it is temporary, it is still very dangerous due to the symptoms that are experienced. It can be very extreme and, in some cases, can turn out to be fatal too.

A lack of proper treatment can worsen the conditions and lead to the second stage of ‘wet brain’, which is dangerous.

3.2. Korsakoff Psychosis

Korsakoff syndrome or Korsakoff psychosis is the second or later stage of Wernicke encephalopathy.

The symptoms experienced include personality changes, confabulation, and tremors.It can also lead to problems with short-term memory and difficulty in forming new memories.

Hand Tremors due to Loss of Stability (Source: Depositphotos)

It might also affect vision. It is of a more permanent state and cannot be treated. The damage is like a coma, and anybody suffering from this condition requires constant care and attention.

4. Diagnosis of ‘Wet Brain

The diagnosis of a ‘wet brain’ is a very challenging process because the initial symptom is confusion.

Due to this, it is all the more difficult to find and recognize any other major symptoms that you might be having. When this process gets delayed, and you get medical help much later, your condition might go from bad to worse in the meantime.

Somebody who already has a history of alcohol should make sure that they get their tests done and consult doctors whenever it is needed in order to ensure an early diagnosis for rapid treatment.

5. ‘Wet Brain’ Treatment

Now that we know what causes the condition, the solution is to provide the body back with what is lacking. Since a ‘wet brain’ is caused by thiamine deficiency, a recovery can be made by making up for the thiamine and cutting down on alcohol.

This helps in reversing the symptoms if it is not too late, and you have not already slipped into stage two.

no alcohol no smoking signs
Signs Prohibiting Alcohol (Source: Depositphotos)

The problem that still remains for alcoholics as it becomes a very challenging task to give up alcohol, with the withdrawal symptoms making it worse.

6. Final Thoughts

We have seen above how alcohol abuse is very dangerous for the body and how it causes a ‘wet brain’. In addition to the thiamine deficiency, it also affects the proper functioning of both the heart and the nervous system.

Due to insufficient thiamine, there are lesions in the brain, and these kinds of neurological symptoms lead to memory loss and other issues. If it not quickly controlled, it would convert into a more serious and permanent problem. This makes it necessary to prevent it at all costs in order to have a healthy brain in the long term.

Last Updated on April 17, 2024 by Bhumika Aggarwal


Anushree Khandelwal
  1. This article on wet brain is an eye-opener about the severe consequences of prolonged alcohol abuse. The detailed explanation of thiamine deficiency leading to brain damage, along with the two stages of wet brain, provides crucial insights. The emphasis on early diagnosis for those with a history of alcoholism and the challenges of treatment, especially for hardcore alcoholics, adds a practical dimension. It’s a valuable resource for creating awareness about the dangers of alcohol abuse and the importance of timely intervention to prevent irreversible damage to the brain.

  2. Alcohol is prohibited in Islam. But it is very common now a days to consume it. I found this this article very helpful in this regard,
    Addiction treatment options are available, and the effects of alcohol and wet brain symptoms can be reduced the earlier you get into treatment.
    And this habit of consuming alcohol should be treated in its beginning.

  3. This article introduced me to the concept of wet brain, revealing how prolonged alcohol abuse can lead to severe brain damage due to thiamine deficiency. It was a surprising and informative read, highlighting the critical importance of addressing alcohol-related health risks. This is very serious and must know thing.

  4. Contrary to my assumption that it might involve the presence of liquid in the brain, wet brain results from excessive alcohol consumption leading to a deficiency in vitamin B or thiamine. This has reinforced my decision to steer clear of alcohol, as I’ve never been a fan, and understanding its potential health implications serves as a reminder.

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