What is Alcohol Dementia?

Alcohol dementia is a type of brain damage caused by long-term alcohol abuse. Dementia is a broad term that refers to a set of symptoms including memory loss, problem-solving, and reasoning skills.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol dementia or alcohol abuse, reach out for help today.

Symptoms of Alcohol Dementia

The symptoms of dementia are the same regardless of the cause. There’s a misconception that the loss of thinking skills that characterize dementia is a normal part of aging. However, alcohol dementia goes beyond the cognitive decline that is often seen as an individual ages. Dementia can affect:

  • Memory
  • Focus
  • Communication
  • Problem solving and reasoning
  • Judgment

When someone has alcohol dementia, they are no longer able to function normally in these areas. This condition can cause them to:

  • Lose the motivation to perform basic activities like eating and bathing
  • Be unable to manage time or get easily distracted
  • Not remember names of familiar friends or family members
  • Be unable to recognize and understand other’s emotions
  • Make poor or dangerous decisions
  • Be unable to plan activities or solve simple problems

Alcohol dementia is also related to other mental health conditions. They may suffer from anxiety disorders, depression, sleep disturbances, and difficulty regulating behavior. In advanced dementia, the person may become dangerously aggressive, make inappropriate sexual advances, or be unable to control their bladder.

Alcohol dementia can be caused by Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. This begins with Wernicke syndrome, which causes abnormal eye movements, loss of balance and coordination, and confusion.

Left untreated, Wernicke syndrome can lead to Korsakoff syndrome. This causes significant impairment in short term memory. The syndrome leaves some parts of thinking intact. The person may be able to play chess, for example, but not remember what they had for lunch. Many people with this syndrome will create detailed lies to attempt to hide gaps in their memory or cognitive ability.

This type of dementia isn’t a result of alcohol use alone. Instead, it is caused by a thiamine deficiency which is common in heavy drinkers.

The other type of alcohol dementia is directly related to alcohol abuse. Alcohol reduces the amount of white matter in the brain, especially in the frontal lobe. This means the brain can’t function and send signals properly. This type of dementia causes problems with judgment, planning, and reasoning.

Does Moderate Alcohol Use Increase Risk of Dementia?

The jury is still out on moderate alcohol use, but heavy drinking has been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and all types of dementia. Heavy alcohol use is considered more than 14 units per week for women and more than 21 units for men. One shot of liquor, one beer, or one small glass of wine can be considered one unit.

Binge drinking can also increase your risk. Generally, men consuming five or more drinks and women consuming four or more drinks in two hours will result in a high blood alcohol level.

Can Alcoholism Treatment Reverse Alcohol Dementia?

Alcoholism treatment can help reverse some effects of alcohol dementia. General alcohol dementia often improves when the person remains sober. If they begin drinking, symptoms may quickly return. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome can be prevented or lessened if thiamine treatment begins before the onset of memory loss. In both types, early treatment gives the best chance of preventing or recovering from this type of dementia.

Alcoholism Treatment at Serenity Light Recovery

If you need alcoholism treatment in Angleton, Texas, contact us at Serenity Light Recovery. In addition to alcohol rehab, we provide dual diagnosis treatment. If you or a loved one has alcohol dementia or other mental health issues, we can treat mental health issues alongside addiction. Contact our team today at to begin your journey to recovery.

FAQs: What is Alcohol Dementia?

Alcohol dementia, also known as alcoholic dementia, is a form of cognitive decline and memory impairment caused by long-term alcohol abuse. It affects the brain and nervous system, leading to difficulties in thinking, remembering, and reasoning.

While both alcohol related dementia and Alzheimer’s disease cause cognitive decline, they have different underlying causes. Alcohol related dementia results from chronic alcohol misuse and its toxic effects on brain cells, whereas Alzheimer’s disease is primarily associated with the buildup of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain.

Alcohol related brain damage is caused by the toxic effects of chronic alcohol consumption on brain cells. Over time, excessive drinking alcohol can lead to permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, affecting cognitive function and memory.

Yes, alcohol misuse can lead to alcohol related brain impairment. Chronic alcohol consumption damages brain cells and disrupts normal brain function, leading to impairments in cognition, memory, and behavior.

Symptoms of alcohol dementia include memory loss, difficulty with problem-solving, poor judgment, confusion, and changes in personality and behavior. These symptoms can significantly impact daily functioning and overall quality of life.

In some cases, alcohol related brain impairment may be partially reversible if the individual stops drinking alcohol and receives appropriate medical treatment. However, the extent of recovery depends on the severity and duration of alcohol abuse.

Alcohol related brain impairment can have a profound impact on mental health. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders, exacerbating the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of alcohol dementia.


Stopping alcohol consumption can prevent further damage to the brain and may lead to some improvement in symptoms. However, the recovery of cognitive function depends on the extent of prior damage and the individual’s overall health.


Alcohol related dementia is diagnosed through a combination of medical history, neurological examinations, cognitive tests, and imaging studies. A thorough assessment is needed to distinguish it from other types of dementia, such as vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

While alcohol dementia is directly caused by chronic alcohol misuse, vascular dementia results from reduced blood flow to the brain, often due to strokes or other vascular issues. Both conditions can coexist, compounding cognitive impairment.

Alcohol related brain damage affects the brain and nervous system by causing neuronal loss, disrupting neurotransmitter function, and reducing brain volume. These changes lead to impairments in cognition, memory, and motor skills.

Yes, withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can affect brain health. Severe withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures and delirium tremens, can cause additional brain damage and exacerbate cognitive impairments.

Long-term effects of alcohol abuse on the brain include permanent cognitive decline, memory loss, difficulties with coordination and motor skills, and changes in behavior and personality. Chronic alcohol misuse can lead to irreversible damage to brain cells and overall brain function.


To prevent alcohol related dementia, it is essential to limit alcohol consumption, avoid binge drinking, and seek help for alcohol misuse. Early intervention and treatment for alcohol abuse can prevent the development of severe cognitive impairments.

Alcohol dementia impacts daily life by causing significant difficulties in performing everyday tasks, maintaining relationships, and functioning independently. The cognitive and behavioral symptoms can lead to a decline in the overall quality of life.