Beatty's study compared the test results of recovering alcoholics who were recruited from drug rehabilitation centers in Oklahoma City with those of non-alcoholics. Specifically, Beatty and his co-researchers looked at alcoholics who had been chronic drinkers for up to nine years, or for 10 years or more. Although there was enormous variation from one alcoholic to another, said Beatty, overall the alcoholics performed worse on the tests than the non-alcoholics. There were no differences, however, between those who had abused alcohol for more, or less, than 10 years.
"This study has critically important clinical and rehabilitative ramifications," said Sullivan. "People who are not yet heavy drinkers should be warned that their cognitive and motor facilities are really pretty fragile and are not going to withstand many years of heavy drinking. These people can't drink with impunity."
"I don't think there's any debate that chronic alcoholism can lead to brain dysfunction," said Beatty, "but there is still uncertainty regarding when it happens, why it happens, and how some people can drink like a proverbial fish and still remain functional."
Beatty's study may have answered one question, but it also raised several more. For example, the
study found no relationship between years of alcoholic drinking and severity of impairment. Some of
the alcoholics in the study who had been drinking for three or four years demonstrated the same brain
deficits as those who had been drinking for 30
Contact: William W. Beatty, Ph.D.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research