Were my brain problems caused by drinking or cracking my skull?

At the end of January, 2012 I was drinking heavily, about a liter of vodka per day. One Friday night I fell down a short flight of stairs, breaking four ribs and apparently cracking my skull. As far as I know I remained unconscious until Monday morning, when I awoke in the hospital.

When I awoke the ribs were obvious to me and my caregivers, so little things like blurred vision in my left eye got glossed over. There was some pain around the left zygomatico-frontal suture that lasted until quite recently, but nothing debilitating. No medical people at the time mentioned possible brain damage, but I received at least one MRI while hospitalized and my doctor recommended a follow-up MRI a month after I was released, but I couldn’t afford it.

There was no evidence of stroke, but based on how out I was after the fall (the kids had to check if I was still alive) my wife suspects I had a seizure on the steps. I don’t know why I was unconscious for two days, or if I even was. My (former) doctor was not forthcoming, and I had trouble getting it together enough to ask. Anyway, it took me months to pry out of him why he threw me in the hospital a few months before, and then it was only, “Because you were near death,” so I didn’t expect much.

After my release for that they threw me straight into the psych ward because I confessed to thoughts of suicide. Time in a psych ward can turn one into a murderer, I believe, because your time there is spent with people you come to really want to kill. Did I get much psych treatment beyond my usual Prozac? Nope. They knew I drank too much, but did I get any treatment for that beyond, “When you get out join AA?” Nope.

Out, I drank for a while, got caught by my wife, and joined AA. By their standards I’m a failure because I stopped going to meetings, but I have been sober for 30 months or so. But that’s another rant.

While I was still drinking my handwriting was a jerky scrawl. Prior to drinking I had been a draftsman, so my printing was very good, but two years after quitting it still isn’t to my standards. Six months after quitting my eye was still bad and I was just starting to get my brain rebuilt enough to hold a crappy job. Two years after that my brain is doing much better but I have more trouble reading than I ever had; sorting out the letters, arranging words, and remembering what the sentence is about when I finish reading it. I’ve had those problems all along, but it’s worse now. I would like a better job, and I probably could handle it, but I am nervous that I can’t.

So, I have insurance now for that MRI and I can get a better set of doctors. But I’m curious. I drank like that for only a year or two; prior to that for a few years it was only on weekends. Could my brain problems be blamed on that, my fall, or both, with other factors mixed in? My new doctor will probably know no more about my case than anybody who reads this.

PM me at your convenience. Drinking generally doesn’t cause permanent brain damage by itself but sometimes other factors associated with it like dietary issues can cause general nervous system disorders ranging to mild to very severe. IMNAD so I can’t say whether you went through an irreversible brain injury during your fall. I can tell you that many people that drank that much have experienced similar symptoms and many of them were able to reverse it. Sometimes those symptoms persist if you aren’t taking active steps to remediate them.

Not all doctors are very good about dealing with patients that have a history of heavy drinking. Many of them well just tell them to stop drinking altogether or not so much and everything will be fine after that. Unfortunately, that isn’t always true. It usually takes a few months to several years before your body recovers from the damage but there are simple ways to help that along.

I’m not a doctor, but I have a lot of brain injured clients. In my view, a n evaluation by a neuropsychologist will give you more information than a MRI. Many people with brain injuries have “normal” MRI and CTR scans


From the Wiki for alcoholism. More there on specifics. I wholeheartedly agree with Chief Pedant.

Why not request your medical records?

Just curious, but why? Your quote from Wikipedia says alcohol has the potential damage organs including the brain. Shagnasty had said that alcohol generally does not cause brain damage. To me the qualifiers of ‘potential’ and ‘generally’ indicate you guys are agreeing rather than not.

“Although heavy drinking can cause a great deal of health damage ranging from cirrhosis of the liver to pancreatitis, horror stories of alcoholic brain damage are largely a myth. Although wet brain is real, it can be prevented by proper nutrition and is not directly caused by alcohol itself.”


Well, I had lousy nutrition because everything tasted like shit and my liver numbers were bad at the start of my stay, but were okay when they threw me out, after living for a couple weeks on English muffins, fruit salad, and green Jello. Next thing you’ll say is that they should have had a nutritionist talk to me. :rolleyes:

You say that in a dismissive way but it isn’t a joke or a bad idea at all. Many of the negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption are caused by poor nutrition rather than directly by the alcohol itself. It is very common and almost universal at the levels of drinking you were describing. People who a history of alcohol abuse often need special diets at least for a while to help their body recover from it.

There may be lingering vitamin deficiencies as well. General vitamin deficiencies are quite common in people with a history of alcohol abuse even if they are not currently drinking. In particular, the B vitamins (especially B-12) can be very low. Magnesium deficiencies are also very common especially among people with a history of alcohol abuse and can cause many of the symptoms that you describe.

Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist with experience in working with people with alcohol abuse history about it but most of those nutrition issues, if there are any, can be addressed with over the counter supplements very cheaply and a diet tailored to your symptoms. In case you are wondering, they aren’t going to tell you to eat white rice and broccoli every night for life.

There is no reason to think that things are hopeless and they won’t get better. There are lots of strategies that you can try to rebuild your body back to its former glory. Diet is just one of those. I was reading some articles on this topic today and some researchers and patients have seen good success using aerobic exercise combined with nutritional strategies to rebuild alcohol and muscle coordination problems induced by alcohol abuse.

It is harder than you think to find a General Practitioner that knows how to treat recovering problem drinkers in a hollistic way but there are some good ones out there. The ones that may not be a good match will just tell you things like “Don’t drink, go to AA and stay sober.” That is sound enough advise but it isn’t enough especially in a case like yours. A really good one will know just what blood tests to run based on your history, how to address those problems and be able to refer you to specialists that have experience in dealing with alcohol induced issues.

In your case, you have to watch out for the ones that want to run a lot of fancy tests but aren’t actually accomplishing anything except paying for making their boat payment. MRI’s are cool and incredibly expensive machines but they have cured zero people directly since they were invented. If they don’t find anything with it like is usually the case, you might as will have spent that time laying in bed at home. It is often the more direct and simple measures that actually help you make real improvements.

Shagnasty’s quote is from HAMS - Harm Reduction for Alcohol. The acronym itself stands for Harm Reduction, Abstinence and Moderation Support.

“Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies intended to reduce the negative consequences of high risk behaviors such as overdrinking or drug use.” From their website.

Far be it from me to in any way detract from this worthy organization. Here is a small quote from the 10th Special Report to the U.S. Congress on Alcohol and Health.
(Warning - large PDF.)

There is much, much more in this report. With that, I withdraw from this thread. I apologize for detracting from dropzone and his OP. I thank you, Shagnasty, for the assistance and support you render him. dropzone - I hope and wish for your continued improvement.

Well, in its favor I lost 75 pounds while drinking. :wink:

Please don’t think I’m looking at this solely in a light-hearted way. Sure, I take my mortality lightly, but that’s because I came to terms with it long ago. You can’t be 60, asthmatic, and 400 pounds and consider sudden death a surprise. (BP okay, cholesterol okay, liver okay, prostate a bit enlarged but no real worries there–I have no right to be this healthy.)

I am more curious than concerned that I’m not all the way well after all this time, but since I never paid that hospital I’m leery about asking for my records. Since my undiagnosed (but obvious since childhood, in retrospect) ADHD has grown worse I’m interested in doing more about that. Shortly after my release a county shrink had me try Strattera for a week, but without insurance I couldn’t pay for it long-term so there wasn’t any point. Anyway, not being an amphetamine makes me suspicious of it. I likes me my speed, though I’m reduced to caffeine these days.

Now I am getting tips from you guys so I can plan my trip through Blue Cross’ local doctors list more efficiently. And they are all within blocks of work or home! I’m liking the neuropsychologist idea, though I suppose they lack prescription pads; better living through chemistry has been my motto for years.

It’s MY thread and you leave when I say you can! :wink:

The thing is, I was only drinking that heavily from 12/10 to 1/12, not much more than a year. For the six years before that it was limited to weekends, and prior to that I had been sober for 25 years. As a drunk I was a flash in the pan, and I felt like a real piker in AA because I didn’t have the horror stories they like. It got creepy that so many of them, some as long as fifty years sober, still wanted to talk about drinking. Dude, that part of your life ended with the Kennedy administration! Let it go! Needless to say, I didn’t fit in.

That part isn’t important. You don’t have to go to AA if you don’t want to. The simple fact is that you suffered some health related problems from drinking and that is what needs to be addressed. I look at it like a true medical issue, not a moral one.

You are certainly not the first and you won’t be the last. The only thing that should be your primary concern is helping you get over the symptoms that you are experiencing.

Oh, I know that, you big silly! :wink:

Anyway, I really stopped because the pretty girls stopped coming and I was stuck in a room full of guys. Ick!

FTR, I did NOT drive them away. I drove me away because I’m anti-social. And it was hard to explain to my wife, who had an inside source who spread all around church that I had a harem at AA. :cool:

What I’m most interested in, though, is the chicken vs egg described in the thread title, and will continue to investigate, even of it requires me to go to a doctor. :eek:

A little bit from column A, a little bit from column B.

And column C, where I went into all this a bit crazy.