10 September 2020

Drinking until you pass out linked to dementia

The Back Page

Youths are panic-stricken and shocked by the news that drinking to unconsciousness could pose a health risk.

Getting blind drunk and passing out is associated with a doubling in dementia risk, London researchers have found.

The wowserish study, published in JAMA Network Open, examined seven studies across Europe, which together tracked the drinking habits of around 96,000 people aged 18 to 77 years.

Around 10% of people in the study reported having lost consciousness due to alcohol consumption in the past year.

People who reported heavy or moderate drinking had a 1.2-fold excess risk of dementia – but those people who reported loss of consciousness after drinking had double the risk of dementia over the 14-year follow-up.

Understandably, young people are devastated by this study finding.

“Well, that’s freaking terrifying,” exclaimed one young person, overheard by The Back Page.

“I am actually panic-stricken by this news. I didn’t know there was any other way to fall asleep during my university years.”

“A misspent youth means that I’ve got about four more years before the dementia kicks in,” a thirty-something said.

Others thought the study was missing the point. “Duh … thought we were all drinking to forget,” one said.

With leadership role models like this, what do you expect of us?

The research was observational so it’s unknown whether the serious drinking caused dementia or people who were predisposed to dementia were also more likely to pass out from drinking.

Ethanol is neurotoxic and crosses the blood-brain barrier so it can damage and kill brain cells in high concentrations, the authors, who must be loads of fun at parties, said.

“Plausible vascular pathways involve associations of excessive alcohol intake with small-vessel disease, which is a risk factor for vascular dementia, and white-matter hyperintensities, which are a risk factor for all-cause dementia, including Alzheimer disease,” they wrote.

“Reverse causation could explain our findings if people with undiagnosed preclinical dementia due to early brain pathologic changes were more likely to experience or report loss of consciousness after drinking alcohol.”

JAMA Network Open, 9 September

See something stupid, say something stupid… If you haven’t killed all your brain cells yet, send tips to [email protected]

COVID-19 live update