Yale study shows why ‘one day at a time’ works for recovering alcoholics

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“One day at a time” is a mantra for recovering alcoholics, for whom each day without a drink builds the strength to go on to the next.

In a new study, researchers found why the approach works.

Imaging scans of those diagnosed with alcohol use disorder took one day to two weeks after their last drink reveal associated disruptions of activity between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and striatum, a brain network linked to decision making.

The more recent the last drink, the more severe the disruption, and the more likely the alcoholics will resume heavy drinking and jeopardize their treatment and recovery.

The researchers also found that the severity of disruption between these brain regions diminishes gradually the longer alcohol use disorder people abstain from alcohol.

The research was conducted by Yale scientists shows.

The findings showed that for people with alcohol use disorder, the brain takes a long time to normalize, and each day is going to be a struggle. For these people, it really is ‘one day at a time.’

The imaging studies can help reveal who is most at risk of relapse and underscore the importance of extensive early treatment for those in their early days of sobriety.

The study also suggests it may be possible to develop medications specifically to help those with the greatest brain disruptions during their early days of alcohol treatment.

One author of the study is Rajita Sinha, the Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry.

The study is published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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