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July 1984

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

Author Affiliations

From the Psychiatric and Research Services, San Diego Veterans Administration Medical Center (Dr Grant and Mr Reed); Department of Psychiatry, University of California at San Diego School of Medicine, La Jolla (Dr Grant and Mr Reed); Division of Neuropsychology, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit (Dr Adams); and Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit (Dr Adams).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1984;41(7):710-718. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1984.01790180080010

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.