Alcohol Action Teams Warn Of Mental Health problems For Young Drinkers

Teenage binge-drinkers in Ulster are caught up in a deadly game of Russian roulette – oblivious they are risking a terrifying brain disease. For alcohol action teams are warning that people in their 30s are now being diagnosed with a brain disorder more usually seen in long-time heavy drinkers in their 60s. The young binge-drinkers are developing Korsakoffs psychosis – a form of dementia usually linked to alcohol abuse. And those at risk of what’s been described as “a ticking timebomb” are young people flooding clubs and pubs for bargain-basement booze and happy hours.

Korsakoffs usual affects men following persistent alcohol abuse and the symptoms include confusion and short-term memory loss.

Almost half those diagnosed make a partial recovery but need support to manage their lives. But a quarter make no recovery and require long-term care.

But experts across the UK say Korsakoffs is now beginning to emerge in people in their 30s -and also appearing for the first time in women.

Alyson Dunn, of the Belfast-based mental health charity Praxis, said that more and more young people were drinking excessively: “As an organisation we have great concerns about any increase in drinking laws and availability of alcohol,” she said. “Alcohol is prevalent among young people and they are heading for serious health problems later in life if they do not curb drinking habits.

“The physical consequences of excessive alcohol can often be clear, but I don’t think people realise the effect it might have on memory and dementia occurring because of it.”

She went on: “Most of the Korsakoffs people we see end up inappropriately in nursing and residential care homes. We are generally dealing with people who would be in their late 40s or early 50s and they are sharing care facilities with people in their 70s or 80s. But the fact that Korsakoffs is now emerging in people in their 30s does not surprise me.”

Praxis set up a specialist unit in Newry two years ago to help people needing treatment for Korsakoffs and is carrying out its own independent research programme on people with alcohol-related brain damage.

“There is treatment and if caught in time people can recover quite well. But society should never underestimate the impact of persistent and excessive alcohol abuse,” Alyson added.