Alcohol and Parkinson’s Disease

Consumption of alcohol has dramatically increased in the past few years. There are 62.5 million people in India who at least occasionally drink alcohol. More than half of those who consume alcohol would fall into the category of hazardous drinking. According to a health report in 2014, approximately 3.3 million deaths were caused by alcohol consumption worldwide.

Men who drink more than 4 standard drinks in a day or more than 14 per week, and women who drink more than 3 in a day or more than 7 per week are chronic drinkers. Excessive intake (4-5 drinks) of alcohol within short time (approximately 2 hour duration) is known as binge drinking. These increases risk for alcohol-related problems and are a causal factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions.

Do you know beers have least and spirits have highest content of alcohol?

DrinksAlcohol by volume (ABV)
Beers3 – 10%
Wines8 – 14%
Fortified wines16 – 22%

Light Liqueurs Vodka/Whiskey/Rum Cask Strength Whiskey

20 – 70%

15 – 25%



Parkinson’s disease: A Brain disorder which affects body movements

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of old age (80-85 yrs) which affects the movement of the body. In this disease patient will not be able to control the movements (tremor), or muscle may become hard and inflexible (rigidity). Movements will also become slow and there will be an abnormal speech (bradykinesia). These signs and symptoms will worsen over time, eventually leading to memory loss, depression, sleep and emotional problems.

Movement of the body is controlled by a region in brain called as substantia nigra. In this region, the information for body movement is transmitted from one brain cell (nerve cell) to another by a chemical substance called dopamine. This information in the form of signal reaches the muscle and controls the body movement. In Parkinsonism these nerve cells are damaged and the availability of dopamine is decreased. Due to the deficiency of this substance, brain loses its control on the movement of body parts and there will be tremors, rigidity and bradykinesia.

Chronic drinking destroys nerve cells and causes Parkinson’s disease

Brain is very sensitive to alcohol and chronic consumption can cause severe brain damage . Alcohol destroys the nerve cells in substantia nigra and decreases the availability of dopamine. This causes Parkinson’s disease. The risk of development of Parkinson’s disease is related to the content of alcohol in the drink. Eg. Low to moderate beer consumption is associated with lower risk, while greater alcohol content (liquor) has high risk of causing Parkinson disease. Binge drinkers are also relatively at more risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

People from rural and slum area frequently consume traditional alcoholic beverages made from locally available raw material such as sugarcane, rice, palm, coconut and cheap grains, with an alcohol content between 25-45%. Common varieties of country liquor are arrack (from paddy or wheat), desi sharab and tari. All these varieties are more prone to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Dont make alcohol drinking a habit

Avoid drinking to quench daily stress. This social drinking often becomes a habit and makes an individual a chronic drinker. Drinking excess amount of liquor and other traditional beverages having high alcohol content should be avoided . Chronic or binge drinkers are on high risk of developing Parkinsonism. They should consult physician if facing symptoms like unable to balance the body, difficulty in walking, standing and writing, or if there is shaking of fingers, hands or arms, slowing of speech and tiredness. It is advisable to avoid drinking as soon as possible and consult a physician. Old age drinkers should take extra caution since they are on high risk.