Alcohol Memory Loss Causes and Treatment

Alcohol memory loss or blackouts are quite common in individuals who consume excess alcohol for long periods. Many people are obsessed with alcohol and unable to control how much they drink. Besides addiction there is a lot of evidence that excess memory loss due to alcohol can occur prematurely. Many studies have shown that alcohol can impair one’s ability to both retain and develop new memory. However, there are different gradations of memory loss. In the beginning one may start to forget trivial dates or lose things in the home. But as the drinking persists this may lead to more prolonged memory loss, reduced concentration spans and have difficulty remembering even the most familiar items. Finally, one develops blackouts which typically occur after binge drinking episodes and are associated with complete loss of all recent memory.

In some individuals who continue to drink there is a medical disorder that can develop leading to dementia. Known as the Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome, this syndrome affects nerves in the entire body. Alcoholic dementia is commonly associated with the wernicke Korsakoff syndrome. It is a syndrome of severe dementia associated with prolonged consumption of alcohol. With time the syndrome presents with memory loss, poor cognition and learning disability. The dementia is progressive and incurable. Alcohol dementia occurs in 10-15 percent of individuals who drink excess alcohol. The symptoms of alcohol dementia are similar to dementia seen in Alzheimer’s disease. In some cases, it is very difficult to distinguish between the two illnesses as they have similar signs and symptoms. Early on in alcohol dementia, one may have acute memory lapses, difficulty performing familiar tasks, incidental forgetfulness, impaired judgment, problems with speech and comprehension. It is usually the family or friends who notice these changes first. If these early signs are missed, then the course is irreversible in due time.

Alcohol has a direct toxic effect on the front part of the brain. When certain nerve cells in the frontal brain are damaged, this leads to poor judgment, inability to make decision and lack of awareness. Scientists have shown that alcohol itself is broken down into toxic byproducts which damage the nerve. The other reason why alcohol induces dementia is lack of proper nutrition including vitamins.

Alcohol continues to produce progressive damage to the brain. Alcohol also prevents formation of new memory and over time, it also erases the long term memory.

Once alcoholism memory loss is diagnosed, treatment is recommended. In most early cases of alcohol and memory loss, there is a good chance that the defect can be reversed. This includes immediate cessation of alcohol consumption, eating a healthy nutritious diet and taking vitamin supplements. In general, women have a better prognosis than men, primarily because of the positive effects of family and friends.

Many drugs have been developed to treat alcohol dementia, but so far there is little evidence that any drugs work. Most drugs have major side effects, are prohibitively expensive and only work in the very mild cases of alcohol memory loss.