A recent study reviewed on Fox News suggests balance problems can affect heavy drinkers for several years after becoming sober, according to researchers at the Neurobehavioral Research Inc. in Hawaii.
Participants took a three-part test that was similar to sobriety tests conducted by law enforcement officers. The different tests compared the balance skills and walking styles of pre-diagnosed alcoholics that had been sober for many weeks, an average of seven years and even those with no history of alcoholism. The volunteers were first screened with their eyes open and then again with their eyes closed. There were over 200 participants. The 70 who were newly sober and hadn't had any alcohol for between 6 and 15 weeks did the worst in their testing.
Dr. Ken Thompson, a medical director, says balance problems are seen commonly at detoxification centers and they generally see more accidents during the first year of treatment and recovery. Experts on addiction say this is due to a condition called "temporary ataxia," which is a lack of muscle coordination due to damage in the brain's cerebellum.
Until recently, balance problems had only been noted in extreme instances for the years following sobriety. Doctors say the evidence points out the importance of recognizing alcoholism as a disease. There is a sort of point of "no return" where the brain simply can't recover from the damage. Doctors add that many still don't think of addictions as chronic medical diseases but that they absolutely are in every way.
The research team says they need to keep track of individuals through their sobriety process for years to show a link between balance issues and drinking.