Abstinence reduces alcohol damage to brain & nervous system

alcohol nerve damage repairs itselfBecause alcohol is highly neurotoxic, as we’ve said before, it leads to damage of the brain and nervous system. Over time it can cause cognitive deficits, or loss of mental abilities in areas such as memory, concentration, motor control and ability to learn.

However, there is some hope now that those precious brain-cells are not lost for ever. Researchers at Stanford University have found that after at least six months of sobriety, the brain damage caused by alcohol’s toxicity does in fact repair itself.

They concluded that the mental abilities of their study group of long-term alcoholics, who had all been sober for between six months and thirteen years, were now the same as their control group who had not been alcoholics. The only capability that had not been recovered was spatial awareness.

Surely this is information to further motivate anyone who’s alcohol consumption is out of control – if you keep drinking, you’ll gradually lose all your faculties. If you stop, you’ll be dazzling friends with your razor-sharp wit just like you used to, right?


  1. Amjad Muawad 25 June, 2016 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    Please can someone advise me. About 10yrs ago I was drinking very heavily then took a long break and started drinking sensibly. Then stopped again 3 years ago to look after someone. Ive recently started getting excruciating headaches and ringing in my ears. Is it possible to get brain damage even though I was doing it sensibly and would it start affecting me after 3 years. Please can someone tell me if this is possible because its making me very sick. My doctor has diagnosed neuralgia but I’m not sure if he is right.

  2. Carol 17 July, 2014 at 5:02 am - Reply

    Looks luhw same problem for everyone. Not something you get over with a belief in higher powers. Usually a hoax… & make big $ off it. Guess I hv to just make up my mind. That will b hard.

  3. Carol 14 July, 2014 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    This has been 40 years of drinking. Well respected. Scared of losing it though. Support families & friends. My job is my life. It’s isolated. Me myself & I agsinst gruelling conditions. Don’t know how to interact anymore. So I grab a bottle & drown my sorrows. Don’t ask fir help anymore. Been through that suicide jail bottom of barrel. No help there. Not going there.

  4. Carol 14 July, 2014 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    I think I’m the smartest alcoholic on earth. I’ve been to the ditches & no end of despair. I’ve picked myself up. AA helped until I got taken advantage of over and over. So no respite from AA. Went to work hard core as a medic. For months & years at a time in Canadian wilderness. Still drink but hide it big time. Hopefully wont come to bite me in the ass. Everyone so proud. The toll this job takes is huge. Life or death. I stay sober but when I get a day off I drink like a fish

  5. Jessica 21 December, 2013 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    if when I drink I only drink 1,2,or3 drinks once every like two weeks will that be enough to let my brain heal in six months ? or do I have to quit cold turkey

    • Tobin Hunt 21 December, 2013 at 4:57 pm - Reply

      That’s not a question we can easily answer with our current understanding, though without doubt if you cut down to that amount your brain will be more likely to heal itself. It depends how much you’re cutting down from really.

  6. spencer 30 August, 2012 at 8:00 pm - Reply

    Excess alcohol ruined my life for 20 odd years .I was very naive and simply didnt realise how much damage my heavy drinking was doing untill what i now look back on as D day.I had yet another particularly heavy session and finally went insane quite literally.I mean my mind simply packed up and it was terryifying.I had this horrible image in my head which justkept on going over and over.I felt so low that i now understand why some end there life ,as you feel its never going to stop.Its been more or less a year of hell but sometimes i feel im getting better .I took b vits for 6 mths.But for my faith in god, i dont think id of survived.Im very angry cos at school i was told how shit drugs were so left alone ,however nothing was said to me about a horrible ,vile evil drug called …alcohol .So help me lord i will NEVER abuse that shit again and pray those that read this take heed.You may get away with it 4 yrs but sooner or later a mental health problem WILL present itself . Im also very sorry for the countless acts of violence i comitted on often innocent people while under the influence and pray god forgives me.Its quite simple really DONT abuse.Start, middle and finish

  7. Nicky Dee 29 March, 2012 at 12:25 am - Reply

    Hi, I went into AA over 20 years ago and stopped drinking. I felt very fragile mentally and emotionally and hoped I could keep quiet and listen, and hopefully I would get better. I remember being told to take extra sugar in case I was craving sugar as oppossed to alcohol and this could be a triggar! I do remember being advised about b vitamins but considering they cost money I didn’t have, and a trip to the chemist they came after all the cakes and sugar etc. It is now thought that I was vitamin b1 (thiamine) deficient and poring glucose onto a thiamine deficient brain causes nerons to die which is wernicke’s encephalopathy. If not treated adequately this will result in wenicke-korsakoff syndrome (wet brain) and the residule brain damage which is korsakoff syndrome. I’ve shuffled around AA for all these years and frequently visited doctors who have all known about my alcoholism, yet it’s taken all this time to get a scan and it was me know investigated it and I had to see 5 GP’s before I got a referral. I actually feel considering 99% of cases result from alcoholism this ridicules AA! Never did I see one piece of literature about it and all I was told was that I wasn’t ‘working the programe properly’. And as for the medical profession!!! Well, I guess it is generally considered money can be spent on better causes. Bonnie, my symptoms are the same as your daughter’s although I’m better these days, and there is hope – what I gather I’ve rehabilitated myself better than the NHS could!!! Take a look at wernicke-korsakoff syndrome on facebook. And for anybody who feels they’re not getting better in sobriety investigate wernicke-korsakoff and insist on a scan if you think it sounds like you. Most people who develop this are men in their 40s or 50s who are malnourished, homeless and drink around the clock – I was mid 20’s, I worked and I looked healthy! I can happen to anybody…

  8. hayley 18 March, 2012 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    im not a heavy drinker what soever but everytime i have my first sip of alcohol both my arms go completely numb for about 20 minutes, should i be worried? i drink about 5 times a month and have never been a heavy drinker. any help would be very much appreciated! thanks

  9. Brett 25 October, 2011 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    One more thing….I’ve had severe pain in both of my “big toes.” That is gout, caused by heavy consumption of alcohol.

  10. Brett 25 October, 2011 at 11:28 pm - Reply

    Hi Everyone —
    I have been alcoholic since I was 19 years old…I am now 43. Been to 6 rehabs, and still struggling.
    I’ve also had the stinging/burning sensations in my feet. I’ve also, which worries me most, had a problem with the steadiness of my hands. My handwriting has completely gone to hell. The more I try to concentrate on writing legibly, the worse it is. I was told 5 years ago, that my drinking had caused permanent (neurological) damage. Don’t know if I believe that because after my 3rd rehab I was sober nearly 3 years and I was fine (since been to 3 more). I think the problem is that, as we age, there are other factors, and it is difficult to discern which came first (chicken or egg).
    Either way, to date…I am drinking 2 or three times (in excess) per week. The reason is that I do not want to develop a “physical addiction” which I’ve had before. I’ve been surprised that I am still showing signs of neurological problems….with regard to the unsteady hands, etc.
    I hope this helps someone. Feel free to email if you want.
    Brett Breckenridge.

  11. michael 12 June, 2011 at 7:52 am - Reply

    hi Mark Mils
    Its great you are making the effort to help others.
    I have a curly one for you. My sister is in a home and is there because of damage to her central nervous system being compromised through alcohol abuse. Two doctors at the emergency department have confirmed the fact. What i don’t understand is that she can’t walk without losing the control of her limbs, she seems to shake and be unable to control what her limbs are doing and is now fully dependent of a wheelchair. She is at St John of God formerly called Madison which are brilliant at looking after her. She has pills for depression and has been off alcohol for approximately 4 months. when she was on alcohol she had spasums and falls over, ending up in hospital when she was in an apartment.
    i will try to help my sister by getting professionals involved through Madison
    The question i want to ask you is if my sister has damaged her central nervous through alcohol abuse will it not be logical that she may regain her ability to walk and use her hands to paint again?
    what do you think mark?

  12. saif 16 February, 2011 at 11:35 am - Reply

    i have a vibration in my head and i have neuropothy, but the vibration was never diagnosed they said its sever anxiety which i dont believe i believe its form alcohol, ive been sober for about 5 months now what can i do to get rid of it . it makes me so sleepy i need to focus . my doc told me i dont need an mri, what should i do what is this vibration “????? and why ar my hand and feet always cold ??????

    • Mark 7 April, 2013 at 8:49 am - Reply

      I can assure you that all those feelings you described is from anxiety.. Google genelized anxiety symptoms

  13. Deseree Blake 4 February, 2011 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    Food for thought……. slow suicide or – I thought I was delivered from the perils of alcohol, sitting here with tingling feet wondering again where it all went wrong…..again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Had a tuff time from the above message 2009 and back to square one – wondering what life is all about, if not numbing your pain with alcohol then what???????

  14. Graham 18 February, 2010 at 9:18 am - Reply

    I have been a heavy drinker all my adult life, recently beer and up to 3 bottles of red a night. I started suffering visual problems in my right eye, not blurred or distaughted just a hevy tired feeling with a strange feeling of losing spacial awareness. I also have the pins and needles and the occasional shooting pain in the arches of my feet. I have had a comprehensive eye test and there are no sight probs. Do these symptoms sound familier to anyone?

    • Voden 15 May, 2010 at 5:32 am - Reply

      Interestingly, I began losing vision in my right eye from drinking also. Western Medicine doesn’t make any connections but in Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) the organs are considered to be connected to the senses, so that symptoms affecting the senses may indicate damage to the related organs ie. the eyes connect to the liver, the ears to the kidneys, nose and sinuses to the lungs etc. It makes sense from this model that visual impairment could indicate liver problems since the liver is most affected by excess alcohol consumption. TCM takes it a step further and connects certain emotions to the organs also, so that anger affects the liver, stress and anxiety the kidneys and sadness the lungs. Again, the common passive-aggression of heavy drinkers supports this perspective. To summarize, anything that you do to help cleanse and support the liver should help with the eyes. Of course this whole field is quite complex and someone trained in TCM would be in a better position to evaluate the situation, but it’s food for thought.

  15. Propella 16 February, 2010 at 4:51 am - Reply

    I have experienced all of the symptoms everyone is talking about. I have been a very heavy drinker for many years. It took me a few rehabs to finally get on track and I can’t say enough about AA…i was against it for awhile but IT DOES WORK! The pins and needles will slowly subside. I especially had them in my feet and it was so painful when simply taking a shower and the water was hitting my feet. I have been sober almost a year now and the pins and needles are completely gone. However, I do still have numbness and twitching on occasion throughout my body, especially in my left hand (as someone else had mentioned.) I am still learning that it is a very slow process in recovery…physically and mentally. I highly recommend taking a vitamin B complex daily along with extra B-1 (thiamin) , B-12, and Folic Acid. This will speed up your physical recovery. I also recommend taking Milk Thistle to clean out and lower your liver enzymes if you are a heavy alcoholic. You will be amazed how effective it is if you get blood work done. Lastly, I take CoQ-10 enzyme which helps your heart and circulation (as well as the nervous system) which will help with numbness. Most importantly….exercise!!! Wake up your body again!!…unless you are in very early recovery, then take it easy at first. You don’t want to overdo it and cause more damage. Ahhh, also drink lots of cranberry pomegranate….this will clean out your kidneys as well as pancreas and liver….hope this helps!

    • Enchanted 3 July, 2013 at 10:02 am - Reply

      Propella, your testimony regarding your recovery fom alcohol has inspired me immensely! I would like to speak to you further regarding any further suggestions you have discovered in your journey to a healthier life way fom alcohol.

      • chris 22 February, 2014 at 3:34 am - Reply

        I’m 32 and didn’t think I would see that day recently. Heavy drinker. Bad blackouts and I truly believe when I had bad DT’s I almost died twice. One nurse told me if your trying to quit and have bad withdrawals take cold pills. worked for me.

        My mind has been starting to act different and when I try to quit from a Long binge and I mean long hard pass out everyday binge I feel like I don’t know who I am. Having these experiences definitely have way more faith in God. Sometimes I think I might have died and haven’t realized it yet.

        I definitely hope this stops for good and it really scars me enough to not wanna drink

  16. Joe 14 January, 2010 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    Is she in a conventional long term care home now? Unless it is a specialized facility the answer is se probably won’t get much real help

    Seek out an altenative clinic that greatly emphasizes eating good food as well as providing specialized vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and other chemicals known to rebuild the brain and body. No one can get better without getting their chemical house in order!

    Try this facility:
    There are others like in the world; heck, innerbalance would probably have some advice on that. I think they also do some short term residential work.

  17. bonnie g 3 December, 2009 at 3:59 am - Reply

    please help me!!! my precious daughter has lost cognitive abilities due to alcohol. they say she will never regain her short term memory and will have to be in a home forever. is there any treatment or any hope? i don’t think i can stand this pain!

  18. carol 27 October, 2009 at 11:21 am - Reply

    I am trying to give up drinking and I think this time I will succeed as I have tingling in my hands and feet, also a burning sensation in my feet which sounds like the nerve damage you have been talking about.
    I have MS which always confuses things, but not, I think, this time.
    I don’t want to go to my doctor as this will probably mean my family getting involved, and I don’t need that!
    Would taking B vitamins help me repair any damage, I have only noticed these problems for about six months?
    Please reply.

    • admin 27 October, 2009 at 3:45 pm - Reply

      High dose B vitamins would definitely help repair the nerve damage, but its by no means guaranteed. B6 particularly, but be careful with the dose, as too much can lead to unpleasant flushing type reactions – do some more research though, as I’m not an expert in nutrition.

    • Denise 31 October, 2011 at 8:06 am - Reply

      Hi Carol, You sound exactly like me! I also have MS! or so I was told so in 08. I quit drinking but the pins and needles in my hands and feet drive me crazy! I also have “BAD PAIN” and I also have intense “HEAT INTOLERANCE” Do you have any other symptoms ?


  19. Deseree Blake 18 August, 2009 at 9:30 pm - Reply

    I was extremely unhappy and started drinking….soon one glass is not enough….then its one bottle that does not do the job…
    5 years down the line I stopped and started taking vitamins.
    Within 3 weeks I looked and felt so much better that I will never go on that journey of slow suicide….

  20. NM 22 April, 2009 at 9:35 am - Reply

    Interesting article! Overdose of B vitamins can be serious, high doses of vitamin B6 can cause neuropathy as well.

  21. Mrs.Shnavel 26 January, 2009 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    i think alcohol is a good drink to enjoy every now and again but i did never realise the effects untill today thank you, you great great people xXx

  22. Mark Mils 24 January, 2009 at 12:21 am - Reply

    The pins and needles might be Peripheral Neuropathy, which could be reversible if the nerves are not too damaged. Talk to your doctor. Taking high strength Vitamin B complex supplements might help….it worked for me.

  23. Irene S Adams 15 January, 2009 at 11:00 pm - Reply


  24. doug 15 December, 2008 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    what about a loss of feeling in your hand (left) pins and needles, is this alcohol related?

    • smith 3 December, 2009 at 4:10 am - Reply

      yes, google cubital tunnel syndrome

    • Samantha Adams 20 October, 2011 at 11:16 pm - Reply

      Am now in my third year with this disability, starting in both feet pulsating pins and needles but have had all bloods tested and do not have any vitamin deficiency. Also have no numbness. Sensation radiated up both legs and now into vagina aand groin. My GP cannot tell me whether it will spread further which worries me, now been sober for 4 years.

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