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Dementia Caused by Chronic Drug Addiction

Of all the possible consequences of substance abuse and drug addiction, few are more serious than the potential for dementia to set in. Chronic drug use can exacerbate existing dementia, bring out genetic predispositions to dementia, or in some cases, cause this condition outright. Fortunately, dementia caused by addiction is treatable or even reversible in many cases. Understanding dementia and drug addiction is a critical concern that should be addressed immediately after the antagonizing drug use has been brought under control.

Dementia refers to a complex and sometimes difficult to define set of cognitive and memory issues. Dementia can be associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, brain surgery or injury, genetic predisposition, and chronic drug or alcohol use. When caused by diseases like Alzheimer’s, dementia is progressive and generally untreatable. But in most cases dementia caused by drug addiction is reversible, depending on the person’s age, physical condition and medical history.

There are 2 ways that dementia can be caused by substance abuse and addiction:

1.) Exacerbation of existing emotional or physiological disorders

Addiction and alcoholism are often caused at least in part by underlying emotional disorders such as bipolar, mania, depression and schizophrenia. These conditions are naturally exacerbated by drug and alcohol abuse and may progress to the point of dementia.

Additionally, because addiction weakens the immune system and causes immense stress on the body, any pre-existing physiological conditions that might cause or contribute to dementia can be significantly worsened. This is especially true of drugs like bath salts and other powerful psychotropics.

2.) Direct causation

Dementia can be caused directly by chronic, intense drug use or even alcohol use. This can consist of sharp, intense but temporary periods of dementia that are immediately alleviated once the substance abuse has stopped, or the dementia can continue even after a person has stopped using drugs or alcohol. This depends upon how much damage has been done to the brain.

According to a report in The Alcoholism Guide;

“Yet it has been long established that alcoholics are at greater risk of dementia symptoms than those who drink within moderate drinking guidelines or not at all. It is estimated that 4-20% of dementia cases are brought about by alcohol abuse.” (1)

Drug use and dementia are virtually identical phenomena as alcohol and dementia, however, the potency of the substance used, the duration of use and condition of the person in question will all serve as determining factors in which people will suffer from dementia as a result of their substance abuse, and which will not.

In most cases dementia caused by drug or alcohol use can be treated simply by stopping drinking or abusing substances. For many people this will need to be done at a medically equipped detox facility that can manage both the potential dangers of Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, and address any issues related to dementia. This can include treatment using various therapies and medications when appropriate.

If someone you love has been abusing drugs or alcohol and is exhibiting signs of dementia, it is critical that you take action and get help right now. The further dementia progresses, the less likely it is to be treatable with a favorable prognosis. Do something about it: call the number at the top of your screen now for an immediate consultation. We can help guide you confidentially and free of charge, but we can’t do anything if you don’t call.

(1) Morrow, Deborah Alcohol Brain Damage The Alcoholism Guide

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More