Wet brain syndrome

In recent months I have been responsible for monitoring the O2 blood saturation levels of someone who abuses alcohol and drugs. It is evident that either alcohol or certain drugs can suppress the breathing enough to lower the saturation levels into the low 70% range and even lower. Could prolonged use of these drugs and alcohol be one of the causes of wet brain syndrome because of the lowered O2 levels? After reading up I found a number of other serious health problems that can arise from low O2 levels as well. Shouldn’t these side effect be more well publicized?

What does her Dr say about it?

Isn’t he whom you should speak with about this?

I think they actually are to some degree in the studies of dry drunks (people who have stopped abusing the substances but still continue the behavior) and dry alcoholics (people with the family background/history of abuse who never drank but still show many of the same dysfunctional behaviors). It isn’t published a lot IMHO in the fear that people will assume its just as good to continue the abuse rather than stopping after the damage is done — but that could just be me.

I have no expertise in this area but reading see that “wet brain” is a phrase used to describe the clinical condition of Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome - damage to the brain associated with B-1 (thiamine) deficiency that occurs as a consequence of chronic alcoholism, which is mostly irreversible unless addressed extremely early on.

I don’t know how often alcoholics drinks so much at a time as to experience respiratory depression with consequent hypoxia but I’d be very surprised if it was other than rare. Respiratory compromise due to aspiration, sure. Opioid addicts perhaps more frequently but of course that, and the suppressed gag reflex, more commonly associated with death by overdose.

I would guess the person you monitor is having respiratory depression as a result of damage done over a long period of time due to drug and alcohol abuse rather than respiratory depression having been a cause of the damage.

kopek you may be talking about something different than what the op is referencing. Are there personality characteristics inherent and extant in those at high risk for alcoholism whether or not the person ever is exposed to alcohol? Apparently yes. But I think the op is asking about a serious neurologic impairment.

I didn’t see any of the answers actually address my question directly. Most likely my fault.

the question is, Could alcohol and drug abuse cause lower O2 levels in the blood resulting in brain damage and other negative side effects? I have supplemental O2 for the patient in question and she does not have wet brain as of yet but it makes me wonder when it is so plain to see the O2 levels drop so dramaticaly after drinking or using pain meds.

I’m still not sure I exactly understand your question, but “wet brain” is not related to Oxygen levels in any way I’m aware of.

Alcohol use can lead to “wet brain” which, as DSeid mentions, is a vitamin deficiency.

In combination with opioid medications, respiratory drive can be decreased resulting in low oxygen levels. Prolonged low oxygen levels can lead to chronic neurological problems but this is distinct from “wet brain”.

Search for “anoxic brain injury” for more information.

(Q: Are you SURE this medical information is YOURS to SHARE…?)

That answers my question. I have known quite a few alcoholics that have suffered from wet brain and just started wondering if some of it might be a result of low 02 rather than the other reasons which I know nothing about. I did read where it can contribute to congestive heart failure but I am not sure how common the lower respiratory function is among heavy drinkers. Seems like it might be worth a study.

If there is not good blood circulation in the extremities it can lead to false low O2 saturation levels. 70% is very, very low saturation, and if I saw that on someone I would suspect a false reading, if they were still alive and not in obvious respiratory distress. Is this person short of breath with a sat of 70%?

If I recall, the person he is describing is a SO or family member. He is not a medical professional covered under HIPAA rules.

She is in the middle to high 90’s mostly but if she drinks I have to make her wear the oxygen because it quickly drops. Same with pain meds. But this thread is not about her it is about drinking and O2 saturation in general. I was curious as to if any studies have been done on this. She does not experience shortness of breath when it drops low and from what I have read this is typical. I have been keeping the doctors advised. I called the paramedics one time when I could not get it up with the O2 supplement. They said not to worry unless she was changing color and short of breath which has not occurred. They also said if the O2 drops below a certain point it pumps less to the extremities and more to the brain. I couldn’t find anything on this so I am not taking their word for it.

Alcohol has no direct effect on saturation, but it’s a depressant and will slow breathing rate and depth. According to the wiki on oxygen saturation, a sat below 90% indicates tissue hypoxia. Have you read the wiki page? Are you clear on what the oximeter is telling you and how saturation relates to oxygenation?

Yes, I do my best to keep her at normal levels but I am not home all the time. As soon as I walk in the door we check the levels and if she needs the mask back on it goes on. I am working on getting her into a more structured rehab environment early next week hopefully.

That sounds like a good plan, HoneyBadgerDC. Good luck with rehab.
If you check the Wiki pageand look at that graph on the right, you can see why oxygen saturations below 90% are dangerously hypoxic. The curve holds pretty flat until you get below 90%, then oxygen at the tissue level starts falling very steeply. This is a graph of the oxygen saturation vs. the actual partial pressure of oxygen. The reason for the sharp decline below 90% is due to the way hemoglobin binds very tightly to molecular oxygen. A saturation of 70% would correspond to a PO2 of only about 40, which is very low. When I worked in medicine I seldom saw patients with sats in the 70s, and if I were convinced it was an accurate reading, it was a call for immediate intervention with supplemental oxygen at high flows until the sat got above 90. Most people with a sat in the 70s would not be conscious. There are exceptions, though. There are people who don’t respond normally to low PO2, often patients with chronic lung disease who are inured to hypoxia.
Well good luck with the situation, anyway. I don’t envy you.

I hope that the rehab environment happens. It sounds like the best place for her right now.

Even if the OP were a medical profession, wouldn’t we need to know names (the patient’s, or perhaps the OP to know by extension who they treat that might be being spoken of) in order for there to be a violation?

I really hate the ubiquity of oxygen monitors. It’s a useful tool in the right setting and circumstance, but the damn thing is wildly inaccurate far too often, and causes a lot of needless anxiety.

OK, carry on.

I have been suspecting that, she shows no obvious signs of low O2 when it does check low. I discovered something else yesterday. It was not the alcohol dropping her respiration rate. She was sneaking in pills with the alcohol. The combination of the two or too many pills seems to be the main culprit. When she was in the hospital they were giving her beer with her pain pills to keep her going into withdrawal. She didn’t appear at all medicated but needed to be on O2 while she was there and they sent her home with supplemental O2. When I took her pills away and was able to limit her drinking the O2 levels shot up to the mid 90’s. Without a controlled environment I doubt she can survive.

I know nothing about the neurological effects of alcohol abuse (hepatic, now… my namesake aunt drank until her liver gave out) so I can’t comment on that - but if she’s desaturating that badly, has she been evaluated for sleep apnea? Alcohol and other medications can certainly worsen apnea, and it really needs to be treated as it can cause lots of issues including daytime fogginess, cardiac issues, and other “fun” things.

In other words, oxygen probably helps but if she has apnea (either on its own or as a result of the substances), that requires different treatment in addition to the oxygen - i.e. CPAP / BiPAP, possibly medications to stimulate breathing.

I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate that the patient might be resistant to a full-on polysomnogram - but there are at-home tests that are better than nothing. If you’re DC-area, I can PM you the name of a good local sleep clinic. Johns Hopkins is also good though a bit longer drive depending on where you are.

I eliminated the alcohol as the culprit and have nailed down to opioids. Doctors are not helping much, working on a rehab program today. Not how much I can do if she doesn’t want to go. I am ready to bail and leave the state just to remove myself from this mess.