Alcohol Dementia: Can Alcohol Cause Memory Loss?

Research shows that the overuse of alcohol is linked to memory loss in middle age. While the symptoms are similar to Alzheimer's disease, memory loss caused by long-term alcohol use is a result of direct brain damage.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Over a prolonged period of time, excessive drinking can result in alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD).

This condition is most closely associated with memory loss and cognitive decline. The symptoms can be so severe that they mirror certain forms of dementia.

What Is Alcohol Dementia?

Alcohol-related dementia can be a confusing term. While excessive drinking does increase your risk of dementia, alcohol-related dementia is not technically a type of dementia.

The term actually refers to the side effects of severe alcohol related brain damage. This condition, known as ARBD, is caused by excessive alcohol use and binge drinking.

The effects of ARBD can vary. Some people will only experience mild impairment of cognitive function, while others will experience something very close to vascular dementia.

People with mild cognitive impairment are actually in more danger because they’re less likely to realize there’s a problem.

There are three primary forms of ARBD:

Each form presents somewhat differently and requires a professional diagnosis.

ARBD does not always progress, which is very different from conventional early onset dementia. In fact, it is possible for the affected person to regain some of their cognitive function if they stop drinking alcohol and receive the appropriate healthcare.

How Alcohol Abuse May Cause Memory Loss

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the average person should consume a maximum of two drinks per day with volume depending on the types of alcohol.

This is considered moderate alcohol consumption. Consuming more than the recommended amount puts you at risk for progressive brain damage, which can affect many parts of the brain.

The most common causes of alcohol-related brain damage include:

  • damaged bloods vessels, increasing blood pressure and risk of stroke
  • nutritional deficiencies, especially thiamine deficiency (vitamin B1) damaging brain cells
  • increased risk of repeated head injuries resulting from the effects of alcohol
  • mental health disorders requiring the aid of professional psychiatry

Ultimately, years of heavy drinking can lead to a variety of brain injuries and lasting health problems.

Other Side Effects And Risks Of Alcohol Addiction

Brain damage is a harrowing side effect, but it’s just the beginning. Older adults with a history of alcohol use disorder are more likely to experience a number of health complications alongside a loss of cognitive ability.

In addition to alcohol-related brain damage, alcohol use disorders are a risk factor for a variety of different health complications.

The damage caused by alcohol abuse puts you at higher risk for:

The damage to your brain caused by substance use won’t stop with memory problems. You’re also more likely to experience social problems, mental health disorders, and worsening substance abuse.

Treatment Options For Alcohol Abuse

Receiving treatment for alcohol abuse begins with recognizing harmful patterns. Alcohol consumption is a regular part of many social activities, and it can be easy to go beyond moderate alcohol consumption.

If you or a loved one are regularly drinking more than the amount recommended by the CDC, it’s time to consider making some lifestyle changes. If you’re experiencing alcohol withdrawal or you’re struggling to make a lasting change, then ask for help.

Find Alcohol Addiction Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

Bedrock Recovery Center offers comprehensive treatment options for people who want to eliminate the health risks associated with alcohol abuse.

Thanks to our combination of medicinally supported treatment and behavioral therapy, Bedrock Recovery Center is the perfect place to start fresh.

If you need help, just call. There’s no reason to do this alone.

  1. Alzheimer’s Society
  2. Alzheimer’s Society
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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