Glossary

alcoholic hallucinosis Auditory hallucinations and accompanying delusions, often of a paranoid type, occurring in a patient who is not withdrawing from ethanol but rather is engaged in ongoing drinking.

blackout A phenomenon in which an individual who is intoxicated with ethanol behaves as if he or she is in command of his or her faculties and is aware of the acts he or she is performing but upon sobering up has no recollection of having performed these acts.

delerium tremens A toxic psychosis featuring vivid and often frightening visual hallucinations and tremulousness that typically develops in chronic alcoholics 24-96 hr after cessation of ethanol intake.

fetal alcohol effects A syndrome observed in children who were exposed to ethanol in utero consisting of some but not all of the components of the fetal alcohol syndrome. A term currently recommended for partial syndromes primarily featuring central nervous system disturbances is alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder.

fetal alcohol syndrome A syndrome observed in children who were exposed to ethanol in utero consisting of growth deficiency, a pattern of dysmorphic facial features, and neurobehavioral disturbances.

Korsakoff syndrome A syndrome, first described by Korsakoff in 1887, characterized by peripheral neuropathy, confusion, disorientation, memory loss, and a tendency to confabulate.

Wernicke's encephalopathy A syndrome, first described by Wernicke in 1881, in which neurodegenerative changes occur in the thalamus, hypothalamus, periaqueductal region, and floor of the fourth ventricle. The clinical symptoms consist of ocular abnormalities, ataxia, and alterations in the state of consciousness varying from mild confusion to coma.

In modern society, we live with an alcohol conundrum:

Alcohol (ethanol) is, and has been for much of recorded time, the euphoriant of choice for human adults who perceive ethanol as user-friendly. However, it has damaged the brains of more human fetuses than any other agent in the human environment, and today it continues to damage the brains of human fetuses. In addition, either directly or indirectly, it has caused neurodegenerative changes in the brains of countless human adults, causing them to have cognitive disturbances ranging from mild memory loss to profound dementia. Medical science has been slow in deciphering the mechanisms underlying ethanol's deleterious effects on the brain, but recent findings, particularly pertaining to fetal alcohol syndrome, are beginning to shed new light on how ethanol damages the human brain.

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