Heavy drinkers struggle to keep their balance for years after quitting the habit, a new study has revealed.
Researchers at Neurobehavioral Research Inc., in Honolulu, compared the balance abilities and gaits of diagnosed alcoholics who had been sober for several weeks, those who had been sober for an average of seven years, and people with no history of alcohol dependence by putting each participant through a three-part test "similar to the things that might be done in field sobriety tests".
The volunteers were first screened for recent drug and alcohol use, then asked to perform a series of balance tests like standing heel-to-toe with their arms folded across the chest for 60 seconds, standing on one leg and walking along a line.
Each of the tests was repeated with the volunteers' eyes closed.
Out of the more than 200 volunteers, the worst performance was delivered by the 70 recently sober ones, who had not had alcohol for six to 15 weeks, whereas in tasks with their eyes closed, the 82 long-sober volunteers also performed noticeably worse than the 52 people who had never been alcoholics.
"There's an 80 to 90 percent recovery, but there's still some residual effects," Dr. George Fein, principal investigator of the study, told Live Science.
"What we have shown is that these coordination effects are present in alcoholics in the general population," Fein stated.
The study has been published in the 15th September issue of the journal in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.