Alcohol and Memory Loss: Connection, Research, and Treatment

Normal age-related memory loss doesn’t cause a significant disruption in your daily life. For example, you might occasionally forget a person’s name, but recall it later in the day. Or maybe you need to make lists more often than in the past to remember appointments or tasks.

Perhaps a dysfunctional performance only appears after excessive drinking has gone on for a certain length of time, producing a threshold above which cognitive impairments become observable. The most obvious way to treat alcohol related memory loss is for the patient to stop drinking. Memory problems caused by drinking in the short term will normally disappear once the patient has stopped drinking, although the effects can last up to twelve weeks, but for patients with alcoholism, the damage caused can often be permanent. However, there is evidence to suggest that some memory function remains unaffected by the effects of heavy drinking over a long period of time, so there is hope for patients with suffering the effects of long term alcoholism. First, the cognitive tests used in the studies described above are not necessarily those best suited (most valid) for detecting the aspects of dysfunction closely related to treatment outcome and general life functioning.

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome

However, learning and short-term memory impairments may be more difficult to reverse even with abstinence. Quitting drinking will prevent additional loss of brain function and damage. Also, improving the patient’s diet can help; however, diet does not substitute for alcohol abstinence in preventing alcohol-related dementia from worsening. A doctor will ask a patient questions to determine whether their cognitive impairments result in disturbances to their daily functioning. People with this type of dementia may have very little ability to learn new things, while many of their other mental abilities are still highly functioning.

alcoholism and memory loss

Drinking even a small amount of alcohol can lead to dangerous or even deadly situations because it can impair a person’s judgment, coordination, and reaction time. These changes in memory are generally manageable and don’t affect your ability to work, live independently or maintain a social life. Because denial is common, you may feel like you don’t have a problem with drinking.

Communicating effectively with ARBI

As a result, alcoholics with greater initial impairment would have a better chance of recovery from alcoholism if their cognitive improvement could be accelerated and brought to levels approaching normal before they entered treatment. In a recent study, Roehrich and Goldman (1993) found that they could use experience-dependent recovery strategies to help accomplish these ends. One significant change from prior studies was that the researchers gave the tasks to the participants in self-administered workbooks, rather than being administered by assistants in a face-to-face format. If cognitive improvements could be observed in this format, the remediation procedure could be far less labor intensive and costly for actual clinical settings. Two general approaches have been used to separate recovery from the effects of practice.

They note that adding indicators of patients’ cognitive status to statistical analyses does not increase the accuracy of the treatment outcome predictions that result from using only basic sociodemographic variables. The capacity to deal with new situations that demand the processing of multiple sources of information underlies humans’ ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Recovering alcoholics require such adaptability to change from a lifestyle that includes continual drinking to one that involves no drinking.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction

In contrast, long-term memory includes memories that are stored for anywhere between a few days to many years. A person who drinks heavily even once can experience the short-term effects of alcohol on their body and memory. When someone exceeds this amount, their blood alcohol content rises with each drink and taxes the liver’s ability to process the toxin. And not all who misuse alcohol or have alcohol use disorder drink every day.

These new approaches are more consistent with newer recommendations to avoid confrontational strategies and instead use strategies that increase motivation (Miller and Rollnick 1991). To see how alcoholics’ performances change over time after they cease drinking, it is necessary to measure their performance on at least two occasions over a specific length of time. Recovery may not progress at a steady pace, so it is best to measure performance on more than two occasions. These descriptions of alcohol-induced deficits derive primarily from the researchers’ intuitive analyses of what the tests seem to measure, such as abstracting ability or memory. Some investigators use more sophisticated strategies based on cognitive psychology to better understand the nature of the cognitive dysfunctions.

In addition, alcoholics have not consistently shown learning and memory deficits despite the fact that more severe versions of these impairments are symptoms of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (see Parsons et al. 1987). First, different definitions of alcohol consumption may lead to heterogeneity. Second, we cannot exclude the potential influences of including former drinkers, who may quit drinking due to underlying diseases and have a high risk of dementia, in the reference group due to data restrictions.

  • But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking less or not at all may help you avoid neurological harm.
  • To see how alcoholics’ performances change over time after they cease drinking, it is necessary to measure their performance on at least two occasions over a specific length of time.
  • Chronic alcohol users also tend to have a poor diet, which can cause a thiamine deficiency.

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