Few people are aware of the devastating impact that alcohol can have on the brain.
Alcohol effects many parts of the human body, but most of the behavioural and emotional changes associated with alcohol use are due to the way alcohol effects our brain.
Alcohol-Related Brain Injury is a term used to describe the long term damage caused to the brain as a result of excessive alcohol use. The condition can affect people in a variety of ways and includes changes in the ability to remember, learn and problem solve. These changes can range from mild to severe and can compromise a person’s ability to cope with normal everyday activities.
At the Alcohol Forum, we view Alcohol-Related Brain injury as being one of the most serious harms associated with excessive alcohol use. We are dedicated to ensuring that the disorder is prevented and that those who are affected are offered the appropriate care to reach their full potential and live happy, fulfilling lives.
What we do
Despite the growing number of people affected by ARBI, Irish professionals and the general public remain largely uninformed of this serious condition.
We strive to raise awareness of this ‘forgotten’ condition among professional bodies and the general public through professional and public talks, articles and events.
We provide Case-Coordination for those individuals who have received a diagnosis or presumptive diagnosis of Alcohol Related Brain Injury and are likely to require input from a number of different services and require a medium to high level of support.
The main objectives of this aspect of our service provision is to help people recover to their full potential after developing ARBI and help them adjust to any ongoing difficulties they may experience. We do this by establishing links with other services, securing appropriate placements and treatment/rehabilitation options for people, and facilitating caring professions in their work with the person.
In 2015, the Alcohol Forum is developing a 3 tiered evidenced based training package to facilitate professionals better identify and support those with ABRI.
What to do if someone you know is affected by Alcohol-Related Brain Injury?
If there is a suspicion that someone is showing any of the indicators of Alcohol Related Brain Injury it is important to alert their G.P of another medical professional as they may need immediate hospital treatment. Providing a description of the symptoms you have noticed, how this has developed over the course of time and how this differs from how the person usually behaves.
The medical practitioner will want to examine the individual and they may arrange for tests to be carried out such as blood tests or a brain scan. Other neurological processes (e.g Alzheimers, Acquired Brain Injury) will need to be ruled out.
Eliminating alcohol from the system is one of the most important steps in recovering from alcohol-related brain injury. The person may require a medically assisted detoxification and a period of care within the hospital environment until physical stabilisation is achieved.
What will happen next will vary according to the individuals on-going needs and local service provision. They may need:
- Ongoing support for abstinence. This may include spending a period of time in an alcohol-free environment where they can be assessed.
- Dietary advice from a nutritionists and does of oral thiamine.
- An Occupational Therapy assessment which will examine how well a person can function in their daily lives (e.g self care, cooking etc.) and what supports they will need in order to live as independently as possible.
- A physiotherapy assessment to help a person with their balance and coordination.
- A cognitive assessment with a neuropsychologist after a prolonged period of abstinence. This assessment will be able to clarify the extent of cognitive impairment and preserved strengths.
- A multidisciplinary team when the person has complex needs. This team may consist of psychiatry, psychology, occupational therapy, dieticians, social work, medical practitioners and family. Drawing from different fields, the multidisciplinary approach ensures that rehabilitation accounts for the full spectrum of the persons rehabilitative needs.