Alcoholic Dementia: Symptoms and Treatment

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : November 14, 
| 4 Sources

Alcoholism and Brain Damage

One of the most life changing effects of alcohol is known as alcoholic dementia

Alcoholic Dementia

Alcoholic dementia, like other types of dementia, is characterized by the loss of brain function, which ordinarily shows up as memory loss. Research shows that excessive alcohol drinking could increase the risk of developing dementia.

 Alcoholism and brain damage are linked due to the effect that heavy alcohol use has over the course of several years. Alcoholism dementia progressively worsens as time goes on.

Alcoholism is a disease that has many physical effects.Long-term excessive alcohol consumption can cause serious brain abnormalities and hinders cognitive functioning. 

The most devastating effects are often on the brain.

Once a person becomes addicted to alcohol, alcohol consumption typically continues to increase. Once alcohol consumption increases over a long period, bodily health deteriorates.

Often, alcoholics are deficient in nutrition because of the way they eat and drink. Without proper nutrition, it is hard for the brain to operate at its maximum potential. When the brain is lacking in essential nutrients for a long period of time, brain functions will weaken. Over the years, alcoholics may notice that they have short term memory loss.

The memory loss may be slight at first and may start out as black out episodes and continue to get worse as time goes along. The inability to perform simple actions will also begin to appear.

How Does Alcohol Cause Neurological Problems?

When a person drinks alcohol, it is absorbed into the bloodstream from the stomach and the small intestine. The alcohol is then processed and broken down by the liver and discarded from the body.

However, the liver could only process alcohol in small amounts at a time. Thus, the alcohol would continue to circulate in that person’s bloodstream and eventually impact other organs.

Alcohol could have severe negative effects on a person’s central nervous system (CNS). The nervous system also includes the spinal cord and brain. Excessive alcohol consumption likewise has negative impacts on the peripheral nervous system (PNS). This system includes the nerves that transmit signals to the organs and muscles.

Can Alcohol Cause Dementia? 

Individuals who don’t become dependent on alcohol or binge drink don’t really need to be concerned about an alcohol-dementia connection. Drinking alcohol moderately hasn’t been found to increase the risk of dementia or any other cognitive problems.

Nonetheless, heavy use and abuse among senior citizens have been linked with changes in the brain structure that develop the risk of Alzheimer’s and as well as other forms of dementia.

A 2018 research discovered that excessive drinking increased the risk of dementia by about thrice. Alcoholism could increase the risk of particular medical conditions that is detrimental to the cardiovascular system, including hypertension. Research increasingly links both heart disease risk factors and heart disease to an increased risk of developing dementia.

Alcoholic Dementia Symptoms

Alcohol dementia has several different symptoms that you may notice off and on. One of the symptoms is lack of decision-making ability. Since brain cognition is affected by alcoholism, the individual may find it more difficult to make decisions and even string together thoughts. Whereas a person with a normally functioning brain may be able to make certain connections and put 'pieces of the puzzle together' so to speak, those who are suffering from alcoholism and brain damage have a much harder time at these simple tasks.

Family members, friends, and colleagues may become frustrated with the behavior of those who are suffering from alcoholic dementia, and will often find that the person themselves is frustrated and irritable because of the issues that the dementia can cause. This is one symptom that the person is suffering from neurological damage as a result of alcohol use.

The worst of the dementia symptoms are loss of recognition. This recognition will apply to people, places, and things. Some alcoholics who have dementia may not be able to recognize their own family members at times. Alcohol related dementia can be devastating to loved ones, because the loss of recognition can be upsetting and overwhelming, both to the family and to the person suffering from dementia.

Most people attribute memory loss solely to episodes during drinking, but this is not true.

Alcoholic DementiaPhoto by Natasha Connell

Treatment for Dementia and Alcoholism

The best way to treat alcohol dementia is to catch it early. Catching alcohol related dementia early means that there is a possibility that the disease can be reversed. The first steps are getting healthy, which means getting off the alcohol and beginning to eat a well-balanced diet again.

Eating healthy must happen on a consistent basis and supplements need to be taken so that the brain can once again receive the nutrition it must have to nurture the proper environment to increase cognition.

B1 or thiamine is one of the main supplements that will be provided for those who are being treated for alcoholic dementia. Memantine, a medication used to treat Alzheimer's disease, is another treatment that is offered to those who have alcoholism and brain damage as a result.

Memantine has been a major medical help for those who are suffering from alcohol related dementia gain back some of their memory and functions.

Alcoholic dementia is a disease that can tear families and people apart. However, if the patient is ready to receive help, the negative effects of this disease may be able to be reversed and the patient can lead a full life. Follow the link for more information on alcoholism recovery.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


Web MD. Alcohol and Dementia: What You Should Know.

BBC News. Alcohol and dementia: What's the truth?. February 21, 2018.

Oxford Medicine Online. Alcohol-related dementia (alcohol-induced dementia; alcohol-related brain damage).

Healthline. Alcohol-Related Neurologic Disease. September 17, 2018.

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