Doctors have long recognised a link between alcoholism and anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Those who drink heavily are at increased risk for traumatic events like car accidents and domestic violence, but that only partially explains the connection.
New research using mice reveals heavy alcohol use actually rewires brain circuitry, making it harder for alcoholics to recover psychologically following a traumatic experience.
“There’s a whole spectrum to how people react to a traumatic event,” said study author Dr. Thomas Kash, assistant professor of pharmacology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “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.”
The study, which was published online on Sept. 2, 2012 by the journal Nature Neuroscience, was conducted by scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and University of North Carolina’s (UNC’s) Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies.