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Aging, Abstinence, and Medical Risk Factors in the Prediction of Neuropsychologic Deficit Among Long-term Alcoholics

Igor Grant, MD; Kenneth M. Adams, PhD; Robert Reed, MS
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1984;41(7):710-718. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1984.01790180080010.
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Halstead-Reitan assessments were conducted with 71 male alcoholics sober for four weeks, 65 alcoholics sober for four years, and 68 nonalcoholics. Recently detoxified alcoholics showed learning and problem-solving difficulties, as did older persons in all groups. Aging, not alcoholism, was related to psychomotor slowing. There were no age-alcohol interactions for any neuropsychologic test. Time since last drink predicted neuropsychologic performance modestly, as did head injury, age, and education. Long-term sober alcoholics were indistinguishable from controls. Our results suggest that alcoholics abstinent one month suffer a subacute alcohol-related organic mental disorder that might resolve with prolonged abstinence, that the neuropsychologic findings in such alcoholics are more consistent with an "independent decrements" rather than "premature aging" hypothesis, and that neuromedicai and other risk factors must be considered before permanent neuropsychologic deficit among alcoholics can be attributed solely to neurotoxic effects of alcohol.

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