Does Addiction Increase the Risk for Dementia?

A person battling addiction does not have much ability to think about or plan for the future. Their sole focus becomes getting more of the substance they crave. Yet it’s essential to understand how the misuse of drugs and alcohol can create complications not just today but well into the future.

Studies indicate a significant link between substance abuse and dementia, and though more research is needed to understand why this link exists, it’s critical to recognize dementia as a complication of the disease of addiction.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is the term for a range of disorders involving abnormal changes in the brain’s functionality. Disorders that fall under the category of dementia involve a breakdown of the thinking process, memory, and decision making. There is no cure for dementia, and over time, it can lead to loss of life due to complications.

Does Substance Abuse Disorder Cause Dementia?

Recent studies have linked the use of alcohol and drugs to the onset of dementia, stating that the chronic use of these substances can cause cognitive impairment early on and, over time, may increase the risk of a person developing dementia later in life.

The study found that mild to moderate use of alcohol does not increase cognitive decline risks, but heavy and long-term use of alcohol can lead to cognitive function decline. Additional studies are necessary to really get a full understanding of this link.

Why Does Substance Abuse Disorder Impact Brain Health?

You do not have to wait until old age to see some of the impact of the use of substances on brain health. In many ways, addiction changes the function of the brain and, over time, can impact the brain’s ability to work properly. View the brain as any other organ in the body and the drugs being used as toxins. The more of those toxins that flood into the brain, the more damage they cause to brain cells, which do not easily replicate, leading to long-term damage to the structure of the brain.

In this way, addiction can cause moderate to severe damage to the brain, and recovery from this can be challenging.

Many people recognize that the brain’s reward system comes into play when drugs or alcohol are used. As drugs like opioids or stimulants enter the bloodstream, they travel to the brain, causing changes to the function of the brain, including a loss of inhibitions and control. This often creates a feel-good sensation, or high, that the brain learns to enjoy. This leads to cravings for that substance so that the brain can experience that positive feeling again. This is a type of rewiring of the brain and worsens occurs over time as use continues.

What Could Happen to You?

The longer you use alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, including stimulants, benzos, and opioids, the higher the risk of long-term, irreversible brain damage. This could lead to early onset dementia, a condition in which the brain’s functionality slows down and impacts the quality of life.

If you have used addictive substances for a long time, hope is not lost. Help is available to you. The first step is to get into treatment. The sooner the damage stops occurring, the more you can protect and repair your brain’s health. 

In addiction recovery, work with your doctors to monitor your brain health. If you start noticing changes in your ability to think clearly, make decisions, or remember the names of people or objects, speak to your doctor about your risk for dementia. Though there is no cure for this condition, there are ways to slow its progression. Those rely on early intervention.

Don’t Put Off Getting Help for Addiction

The sooner you reach out for drug and alcohol addiction treatment, the more support you’ll give your brain in recovery. English Mountain Recovery in Tennessee can help you. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs and how they can work to improve your brain health as well as your quality of life.