Balance Measured in Sober Alcoholics

Long-term alcohol use can wreak havoc on a person’s system, eliminating the ability to function properly in certain areas. Now, new research suggests that while long-term sobriety can help to improve balance problems in alcoholics, some may not be able to regain full stability while standing.

A post in Business Week captures certain elements of this study, including the fact that this lack of stability – which is the result of alcohol-related brain injury – can increase the risk of fall-related injury and death.

“With sobriety, gait and balance become stable. However, even with prolonged sobriety, people with long-term chronic alcohol dependence can have difficulty in standing upright,” said study corresponding author Edith V. Sullivan, professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, in a news release.

“Their balance can be marked by sway that exceeds what most of us experience while standing still in one place, especially with feet together and hands down by one’s side, that is, without use of natural stabilizing factors.”

To gather their data, Sullivan and colleagues tested postural sway in 34 alcoholic men, 15 alcoholic women, 22 control men and 29 control women. Results from this assessment show that the sway paths of alcoholics are longer and cover a wider area than those of controls for a given time.

Sullivan noted that it is important to highlight that the standing stability of sober alcoholics can be improved by using stabilizing factors, including simple aids like turning a light on in a dark room, touching a banister while walking down a flight of stairs or walking or standing with feet apart rather than with ankles close together.

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