For many years, scientists have known that there is a link between alcoholism and anxiety disorders, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People who are heavy drinkers have an increased risk of encountering traumatic events in their lives, such as car accidents and violence, but this only partially explains the connection between anxiety disorders and alcoholism.
A Recent study conducted at The University of North Carolina, and published in Nature Neuroscience, demonstrates that heavy alcohol consumption re-wires the brain circuitry, which makes it more difficult for alcoholics to cope with tragic psychological events. The study used alcoholic mice to prove the distortion of brain circuitry as a result of heavy alcohol consumption.
Thomas Kash, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, co-authored the study using mice. He states, “There’s a whole spectrum to how people react to a traumatic event. It’s the recovery that we’re looking at — the ability to say ‘this is not dangerous anymore.’ Basically, our research shows that chronic exposure to alcohol can cause a deficit with regard to how our cognitive brain centers control our emotional brain centers.”
This cognitive brain deficit in alcoholics makes reactions to traumatic events inconsistent to standard human responses. Alcoholics, therefore, will experience a traumatic event on a much grander emotional scale than one who does not drink alcoholically.
Scientists hope to further study the alcoholic’s brain responses at a molecular level to develop anti-anxiety drugs specifically for alcoholics.