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Women Recover From Alcohol Abuse Faster

Women's brains recover white matter quickly in early recovery, while men don't make such progress for over a year, a new study shows.

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Women's brains recover at a quicker pace.
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By May Wilkerson

08/10/12

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Whatever your gender, sustained, heavy drinking can cause you to lose your marbles—and abstinence can provide a way to get them back, as science (and experience) have proved. But a new study suggests women's brains actually recover much more quickly from long-term alcohol abuse than men's. Previous research has linked heavy alcohol consumption to loss of "white matter"—the thing that allows communication between different parts of your brain. A recent study by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine used MRI technology to examine the brains of 42 alcoholic men and women who were abstinent from alcohol after five or more years of heavy drinking. They found that with abstinence from alcohol, women recover their white matter brain volume more quickly than men—within the first year. Men showed little brain recovery in the first year, but they began to recover their white brain matter after that—whereas for women, recovery tapered off at this point. "These findings preliminarily suggest that restoration and recovery of the brain's white matter among alcoholics occurs later in abstinence for men than for women," says study lead Dr. Susan Mosher Ruiz. "We hope that additional research in this area can help lead to improved treatment methods that include educating both alcoholic men and women about the harmful effects of excessive drinking and the potential for recovery with sustained abstinence."

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