The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that, “Researchers led by Catherine Fortier at Harvard Medical School found that chronic alcohol misuse damaged white matter in areas of the brain that are important for self-control and recovery from alcoholism. The findings appeared in the December 2014 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.”
This study adds to a growing body of data, obtained by using neuroimaging technology, that suggests that heavy drinking badly undermines the very brain systems that are necessary to control powerful impulses, including the compelling urge to drink. It also indicates that recovery of these systems can take years to achieve.
The study used high-resolution diffusion magnetic resonance brain scans to compare a group of 20 healthy light drinkers to a group of 31 individuals with a history of alcoholism. Alcoholic subjects drank heavily for an average of 25 years but they had been abstinent for about five years.