What is Alcohol Induced Dementia?

Over time, alcohol abuse can cause severe and permanent damage to the body and brain. Drinking regularly exposes cells to ever-increasing levels of toxins.  One of the most devastating effects of long-term alcohol addiction is alcohol induced dementia, a condition that can cause both mental and physical impairment.

Alcohol Impairs the Brain

Alcohol in all its forms affects all systems in the body.  It’s a neurotoxin, with the power to change the structure of the brain and affect how the body is able to process out harmful chemicals through the liver and kidneys.  Alcohol is a depressant, which explains why it can make people feel relaxed and less inhibited.  That also means that it can slow the functioning of the central nervous system and the brain’s neurotransmitters – the trillions of cells that pass information between the various systems of the brain and body.

Because alcohol slows down the brain’s ability to process information, drinking even in fairly moderate amounts causes symptoms such as:

  • slower reaction times
  • slurring of speech
  • clumsy movements.

Heavier drinking can cause blackouts and memory lapses too.  In most cases, those effects are temporary, and the body recovers after the alcohol is processed out of the system.

Long-Term Drinking Causes Long-Term Damage

Alcohol Induced Dementia

Alcohol induced dementia is characterized by short and long term memory loss.

In the mid and later stages of alcohol addiction, the body and brain lose their ability to bounce back.  By this time, drinking isn’t an occasional event. The alcoholic is drinking daily just to function normally and stave off withdrawal symptoms. Drinkers at this stage also need to consume more and more as the body and brain develop a tolerance for alcohol.

This kind of chronic, heavy drinking actually alters the structure of the brain, causing cells to shrink. In very late stages of alcoholism, the brain itself becomes smaller.  These altered structures in the brain are no longer able process information and direct the body’s many functions normally.

Along with changes to the brain itself, long term drinking damages the liver, which is responsible for clearing toxins of all kinds from the body.  Alcohol-related diseases like cirrhosis and hepatitis reduce the liver’s ability to process out toxic substances like ammonia.  When these “poisons” aren’t completely excreted, they can accumulate in the bloodstream and circulate to the brain, which causes more damage to brain cells.

Symptoms of Alcohol Induced Dementia

The symptoms of alcohol induced dementia mimic those of Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of cognitive impairment caused by strokes and neurological diseases.  Symptoms can include:

Memory loss

As brain cells deteriorate and processing slows, short and long term memory can begin to fail.  This can lead to problems with completing everyday tasks and recalling events in the past.

Coordination and motor control problems

Alcohol induced dementia can lead to difficulties with:

  • Walking steadily
  • Maintaining balance
  • Holding or picking up objects
  • Tying shoes and buttoning clothing
  • Doing tasks that require a steady hand

Personality changes

Because alcohol affects the brain’s centers for mood and emotion, those with alcohol induced dementia can experience:

  • Outbursts of anger
  • Lack of social restraint
  • Sadness and depression
  • Personality changes
  • Paranoia or psychosis

Alcohol Induced Dementia: Hope for Healing

Problems with processing information

When alcohol damages the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain responsible for “executive functions,” difficulties can include:

  • Problems with making decisions
  • Difficulty organizing information
  • Problems with following directions
  • Trouble understanding written material
  • Confusion when driving

Speech and language impairment

When drinking leads to alcohol induced dementia, it can affect the brain’s speech centers, causing difficulties with:

  • Pronouncing words clearly
  • Organizing sentences
  • Remembering familiar words
  • Learning new words and phrases

Treatment Can Reduce or Eliminate Symptoms

The symptoms of alcohol induced dementia can be treated. Treatment must include:

  • Stopping alcohol use completely
  • Treating alcohol related liver disease
  • Supporting the body’s healing with good nutrition and vitamins

When symptoms are long lasting and interfere with daily living, physical therapy and other support services can help.

The effects of abusing alcohol can be devastating. But they can also be prevented. Are you worried about how drinking is affecting your life?  We have the answers you need.  Contact us at 800-839-1686 to get the help you’re looking for right now.

How Our Helpline Works

If you're seeking addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, the AlcoholicsAnonymous.com helpline offers a convenient and private solution to assist you. Our caring treatment advisors are ready to take your call anytime, day or night. Calls are answered 24/7 to discuss treatment and recovery options.

Your call is routed to a general helpline call center where caring admissions coordinators can help you decide what treatment option is right for yourself or for your loved one. Our helpline is NOT affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous/AA nor does AA sponsor the treatment options that are recommended when you call.

Close