Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Font Size

Beating Alcohol Addiction Gives Brain a Boost

New Brain Cells Form When Heavy Alcohol Intake Stops, Animal Study Shows
WebMD Health News

Nov. 9, 2004 -- Overcoming alcohol addiction can yield a growth spurt of new brain cells, according to researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).

The findings could have meaning for the more than 17.5 million Americans -- about 8% of the population -- with alcohol addiction.

Many people with alcohol addiction have problems with learning, memory, and impulsivity. Researchers say this could stem from alcohol's effect on an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory.

People with alcohol addiction repeatedly drink alcohol although it causes significant problems in areas such as relationships, work, personal obligations, or legal matters like disorderly conduct or drunken driving.

Signs of alcohol addiction include feeling compelled to drink, drinking in secret, needing greater amounts of alcohol to have the desired effect, withdrawal symptoms without alcohol, and feeling that alcohol is starting to dominate your life.

Some people can drink moderately with no problem, while others may only need a small amount to slide toward alcohol addiction. No one knows why some people are more vulnerable than others to alcohol addiction.

The new study was conducted by Fulton Crews, PhD, director of UNC's Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, and research associate Kim Nixon, PhD. Crews and Nixon studied 81 adult male rats, feeding them enough alcohol over four days to simulate alcohol addiction.

During this period, the rats' ability to produce new brain cells was inhibited. But when the researchers stopped supplying alcohol, the rats had a spurt in new brain cell production after just seven days.

"After [alcohol] abstinence for one week, we saw a huge burst in the number of new cells being born," says Nixon in a news release.

A few weeks later, the rats had "a pronounced increase" in new nerve cell formation in the brain's hippocampus.

The study is the first to show that brain cell production can bounce back, at least to some degree, from alcohol addiction, say the researchers. It also supports the theory that brain cells can be produced throughout life.

Today on WebMD

child ignored by parents
prescription pain pills
Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms
Teen girl huddled outside house
Man with glass of scotch
overturned shot glass
assortment of medication
Depressed and hurting