Chronic alcohol abuse damages regulating hormones

  • Chronic alcohol consumption is associated with higher rates of infections, cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmias, bleeding complications and liver insufficiency.
  • Alcohol withdrawal and early abstinence also wreak havoc on alcoholics.
  • New research indicates that changes in hormones that regulate electrolyte and water balance in the body may not only account for some withdrawal symptoms but persist over long periods of strictly controlled abstinence.

Although it is well known that chronic alcohol abuse causes a broad range of health complications, it remains unclear how much regeneration may occur during long-term abstinence from alcohol. A new study carefully monitors major water and electrolyte regulating hormones - arginine vasopressin (AVP), atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), aldosterone and angiotensin II - from early withdrawal up to 280 days of strict abstinence. The results, published in the May issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, indicate that chronic alcohol abuse can cause severe and persistent alterations in the hormones that regulate electrolyte and water balance in the body.

"Most of the available literature on regeneration from alcoholism is restricted to the first few days up to three weeks of abstinence," said Hannelore Ehrenreich, head of Clinical Neuroscience at the Max-Planck-Institute for Experimental Medicine and corresponding author for the study. "Only rarely do papers report on persistent alterations or on patterns of regeneration associated with long-term abstinence. In fact, many disturbances are believed - but never proven - to return to normal within a few weeks."

"Both chronic alcohol consumption and alcohol withdrawal can affect cell and homeostatic functions on a variety of levels," said Claudia Spies, medical associate director of the department of anesthesiology and intensive care medicine at the University Hospital Charite Campus Mitte. "A chronic alc


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