Cognitive deficits in early onset alcoholism

Rajesh Kumar., Keshav Janakiprasad Kumar., Vivek Benegal and Bangalore N. Roopesh

Background: Alcoholism is a heterogeneous construct. It is classified predominantly into two types:
Early onset alcoholism (alcohol dependence before the age of 25 years) and late onset alcoholism
(alcohol dependence after the age of 25 years). Studies have reported that early onset alcoholism is
more severe in nature as compared to the late onset alcoholism. Several studies have reported
cognitive deficits in individuals with alcoholism. However, studies have not segregated early onset
and late onset alcoholism, and other co-morbid conditions while assessing cognitive functions in
individuals with alcoholism. Therefore, aim of this study was to examine the cognitive deficits in
individuals with early onset alcoholism.
Method: This study is consisted a sample of 50 individuals with early onset alcoholism. Tools used
in this study were socio-demographic and clinical data sheet to record the socio-demographic
information (for e.g., age and education), as well as clinical information (for e.g., age of onset and age
of dependence). Neuropsychological tests were administered to assess the cognitive functions. Tests
included in this study were: Color Trail 1 & 2, Controlled Oral Word Association Test, Digit Span,
Spatial Span, Ray’s Auditory Verbal Learning Test and Complex Figure Test.
Results: Performance on the neuropsychological tests was compared with Indian norms. Results
showed cognitive deficits in individuals with early onset alcoholism. Results also indicated that
cognitive deficits may vary in individuals.
Conclusion: Individuals with early onset alcoholism demonstrated cognitive deficits. However,
cognitive deficits may vary in individuals. Several individualistic and clinical factors may play a role
in cognitive deficits produce by alcoholism. Study concludes that ameliorating cognitive deficits may
enhance treatment efficacy.

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