Alcohol Abuse May Come With a Parkinson's Disease Risk

Alcohol abuse linked to Parkinson disease risk in recent study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Chronic abuse of alcohol often leads to mental and physical health problems. According to recent research, one of those problems could be Parkinson's disease.

After following up with patients who had been to the hospital due to alcohol abuse, researchers investigated whether alcoholism was linked to Parkinson's disease.

These researchers found that patients who abused alcohol were more likely to develop Parkinson's disease than patients who did not abuse alcohol.

Additionally, the risk increased among patients who had been to the hospital for an alcohol abuse problem earlier in life.

"Seek help if you have alcoholism."

Anna-Karin Eriksson of the Department of Public Health Sciences at the Karolinska Institutet led this study on alcohol use and Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's disease is a central nervous system disorder characterized by tremors, rigid limbs and slow movement. It can also affect a patient's speech, cognition and mood.

Many of the effects of Parkinson's disease stem from the death of cells that produce dopamine, a chemical in the brain.

The exact causes of Parkinson's are unknown, although certain factors have been shown to increase the risk of developing the disease.

This study aimed to investigate the role that alcohol abuse plays in the development of Parkinson's disease.

The researchers included men and women who had been hospitalized for either abuse of alcohol or appendicitis, as a comparison group, from 1972 to 2008.

The participants were contacted periodically to see if they had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. The maximum follow-up period was 37 years.

Out of the 602,930 individuals who were included in the study, 1,741 (0.3 percent) were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

A total of 1,083 of those diagnoses (0.4 percent) were made in participants who had been admitted for alcohol abuse, while only 658 (0.2 percent) were made in the appendicitis group.

In other words, the patients admitted for alcohol abuse were 1.38 times more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson's disease than the other patients during the follow-up period.

The participants who were less than 44 years old at the time of their initial hospital visit were most at risk for developing Parkinson's disease.

The researchers concluded that heavy alcohol consumption seemed to increase a patient's risk of developing Parkinson's disease, especially for younger patients.

These researchers noted that other factors linked to an alcohol-related diagnosis, like poor nutrition and exposure to certain toxins, may have also influenced the patients' risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

They suggested that excessive alcohol use could lead to Parkinson's disease by causing brain damage and affecting dopamine production.

The authors acknowledged some limitations of their study, like the lack of data on cigarette smoking.

This study was published in BMC Neurology on December 5.

The research was supported by a grant from the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research. The authors declared no competing interests.

Review Date: 
December 6, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013