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Wet Brain: A Reality Many Forget

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Have you ever heard of the term “wet brain”? If you haven’t, maybe you imagine a brain soaked in fluid. You probably wouldn’t be aware that wet brain has to do with alcohol, either. Wet brain is not just an alcohol-soaked brain. The reality of wet brain is much more complex than that.

Wet Brain Explained

Wet brain is a slang term for the brain disease Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. As mentioned by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is when your brain has a severe lack of vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. Thiamine is responsible for helping the body process and use sugars to create energy successfully.

According to the United States National Library of Medicine, in many wet brain cases, thiamine levels are endangered through poor eating habits. The link between chronic alcohol use disorder (AUD) and this condition is heightened because people with AUD tend to make poor dietary and lifestyle choices, resulting in brain damage.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is actually a combination of two brain diseases, Wernicke syndrome and Korsakoff syndrome. The two disorders typically co-occur if Wernicke syndrome is n

Wernicke syndrome is the less serious of the two as the effects can be treated. If left untreated, Wernicke syndrome will develop into the more serious Korsakoff syndrome. Wernicke syndrome, also known as Wernicke encephalopathy, is a central nervous system disorder. Some symptoms of Wernicke syndrome include confusion, being unable to fully control body movements, and eye abnormalities.

In Korsakoff syndrome, it’s typical to see short-term memory damage. In some cases, patients may also experience long-term memory loss. Although rare, it’s also possible for people to make up things to fill the memory gaps they have. Once you reach the Korsakoff stage of wet brain, your brain has likely begun to get lesions and grow scar tissue.

Without proper levels of thiamine, brain functions in the most active brain regions are affected. This includes the hypothalamus. As specified by the National Organization for Rare Disorders, if the hypothalamus is not working right, things such as body temperature, appetite, emotions, and growth can be affected.

There are also people who are more likely to get wet brain due to their genetics. Although there is medical proof of genetics playing a role, much more research is needed to understand why and how that is the case.

Alcohol Dependency

Wet Brain and Alcohol Use Disorder: The Connection

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a serious disease that can cause severe medical consequences for the person suffering from it. If you or your loved one is able to identify the symptoms of AUD early, you may be able to avoid wet brain altogether by receiving treatment earlier. Symptoms of alcohol use disorder could include:

  • Sweating
  • Changes in heart rate or blood pressure
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Sleeping problems
  • Tremors

One of the many medical consequences of alcohol use disorder could potentially be wet brain. This happens because alcohol reduces the body’s ability to absorb thiamine, lowers the liver’s store of thiamine, and also can destroy the enzyme that allows your body to convert thiamine into useful energy.

Wet brain can also be caused by malnutrition. It’s very easy for people with AUD to ignore their bodily needs, such as a good breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The lack of nutrients caused by improper eating habits, along with the effects of alcohol on the brain, will make it much more likely for someone to develop wet brain, shaking, confusion, agitation, or absentmindedness.

It’s important to notice wet brain early so it can be treated. The first symptoms of wet brain you’re likely to see are drowsiness, rapid eye movements, inability to move the eyes, hallucinations, and inability to fully control body movements,

How Does Someone Get Wet Brain?

There are a few ways someone can develop wet brain. The most common way is through alcohol use disorder. Another way you can get wet brain is through a lack of nutrients. Typically this is the case in those suffering from eating disorders, but there are also cases where the body’s inability to absorb nutrients can cause wet brain.

Alcohol-Induced Dementia?

As mentioned above, many times with wet brain, memory is affected. In the more developed cases, long-term memories can be forgotten. Rarely, some people are able to create imaginary memories to fill the gaps. Many times these long-term memories remain blank, and that could cause dementia-like effects to form.

Wet brain usually displays symptoms similar to those of dementia. Some of these dementia-like symptoms include memory problems (both short- and long-term), confusion, disorientation, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty understanding concepts.

If noticed and treated early, you are not destined to develop dementia. In fact, if caught early and treated, some patients are able to regain their memory functions. But if left untreated or caught too late, the effects may remain permanent.

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Can Wet Brain Be Fatal?

Unfortunately, wet brain can be fatal, and as mentioned by the Alzheimer’s Association, that is the case in nearly 20% of people who were never diagnosed. There is still hope, though. If caught in the early stages, wet brain can be treatable.

Around 25% of people will fully recover from wet brain if they receive proper treatment. About 50% of people are able to at least improve if they don’t fully recover. Unfortunately, around 25% of people are unable to improve and may stay at the same level even with treatment.

Is Wet Brain Treatable?

Wet brain is absolutely treatable if caught in the early stages. The first step toward treating wet brain is to stop drinking alcohol. For people who struggle with alcohol use disorder, this can be a difficult and dangerous situation due to alcohol withdrawal. It would be best to go to a detox center that is prepared and able to successfully help you or your loved one through detoxing in a stable, safe, and controlled environment.

Once someone has completed detox, they should also be encouraged to seek out an addiction treatment program so they can learn how to continue their life journey without using alcohol. These two steps are the first toward a better and healthier lifestyle.

There are points of no return, though. Some people may have heart problems, low blood pressure, and permanent nerve damage that cannot be reversed. There are also circumstances where the disease could be fatal if it progresses long enough without medical intervention.

Can I Prevent It?

Although a bit tricky, wet brain can be prevented. The reason it could be tricky is because intervention needs to happen before the symptoms of Wernicke syndrome present themselves. This would mean the person struggling from alcohol use disorder would need to get treatment much earlier.

It can at times be tricky to identify alcohol use disorder while it’s happening, but to prevent wet brain, you should take the following actions:

  • Watch actions closely — Whether it’s you or your loved one, at times it can be hard to know when someone is struggling because they may try to convince themselves or you that they are fine. Actions speak louder than words, so keep an eye on your actions or the actions of the person who could be struggling. To learn which behavioral signs to look for, check them out here.
  • Evaluate physical health — Many times a person’s physical health can be a sign that something is wrong. If you notice that you or your loved one has trouble sleeping, has unexplained weight loss, becomes depressed, or has mood changes, these could be indicators of alcohol use disorder.
  • Express your concern — Treatment can seem very scary to someone struggling with AUD. There are so many reasons why they may not want to seek treatment, but it’s important to express to them all of the good things that could come from seeking treatment. Their health should be their main priority, and it’s important that they know they are able and worthy of receiving treatment.
  • Propose a plan of action — If you or your loved one knows that treatment is what they want, creating a plan of action can help to streamline the process so it isn’t so scary. You should sit with your loved one and discuss what they need to do to get into treatment. From there, you’ll be able to follow the guide you set, and it can help make the task seem not as threatening.
  • Help them transition into treatment — Going to treatment can be scary, and sometimes that fear may actually keep a person from seeking treatment. It’s important during this time to help them transition smoothly into treatment by offering support and care. For example, every facility is different regarding the personal items they allow. If you were to research that and help your loved one pack for their treatment, it could help make the task less daunting.

If you or your loved one is suffering from memory loss caused by alcohol addiction, it’s vital to seek help immediately. If you need help, the first step is to reach out. We will connect you with an alcohol treatment program to help you treat your symptoms and reclaim your life. It can be difficult, but your health is the main priority.

Rehab Center understands your pain, and we’re here for you. Call us today at (888) 979-9592 and we will help you on the road to recovery.


What does wet brain mean?

Wet brain is a slang term for the brain disease Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is when your brain has a severe lack of vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. Thiamine is responsible for helping the body process and use sugars to create energy successfully. In wet brain cases, thiamine levels are endangered through poor eating habits. The link between chronic alcohol use disorder (AUD) and this condition is heightened because people with AUD tend to make poor dietary and lifestyle choices, resulting in brain damage.

Can wet brain kill you?

Wet brain can indeed be fatal. But it’s also very treatable if caught in the early stages.

How long does it take to die from wet brain?

If a person has been diagnosed with end-stage alcohol use disorder, they could have as few as six months before wet brain claims their lives.

How does someone get wet brain?

People get wet brain from alcohol use disorder, eating disorders, or from the inability to absorb nutrients.

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