Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia, and other cognitive impairments pose substantial health risks for seniors. Still, those brought on by extensive alcohol use referred to under the umbrella term “alcohol induced dementia,” or “alcohol-related dementia,” are the most complicated to manage. Unfortunately, it’s also an increasingly common form of Dementia.

Suppose your loved one is suddenly experiencing cognitive and behavioral changes like memory problems, confusion, impaired judgment, impulsive or inappropriate tendencies, or trouble with planning and other everyday tasks. In that case, you may be worried they have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of Dementia. While most common forms of Dementia are irreversible and their causes are not entirely understood, there are some exceptions. For example, if you know or suspect your loved one drinks an excessive amount of alcohol, they may be showing signs of alcohol-induced Dementia.

Alcohol Induced Dementia Signs and Symptoms

The broader category of alcohol induced Dementia includes Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a type of Dementia characterized by impaired planning, thinking, and judgment. Symptoms of WKS may present as someone telling the same stories or asking the same questions repeatedly, with no recollection that the questions have just been asked and answered. In conversation, someone may repeat the same piece of information 20 times, remaining wholly unaware that they are repeating the same thing in a stereotyped expression.

Alcohol Induced Dementia
Suddenly experiencing cognitive and behavioral changes like memory problems & confusion could be a symptom of alcohol induced dementia.

Physical Symptoms of Alcohol Induced Dementia

  • Muscle Weakness and Atrophy
  • Problems with a walk (gait) and coordination
  • Decreased or abnormal reflexes
  • Fast Pulse (heart rate)
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Abnormal Eye Movement
  • Low Body Temperature

When people drink too much alcohol over many years, they may experience alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD), sometimes called alcohol induced Dementia. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [1] defines heavy alcohol use as more than four drinks for men and more than three drinks on any day for women. ARBD, Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of Dementia can present with similar symptoms because they all affect the cholinergic system, which plays an essential role in memory.

Regular Heavy Drinking Can Cause ARBD In A Range Of Ways:

  • Cell damage caused by alcohol’s toxins
  • Shrinkage of brain tissues
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, due to alcohol’s interference in the storage and usage of thiamine, poor absorption of the nutrient due to alcohol’s irritating effects on the gastrointestinal system, and poor diet
  • Alcohol-related cerebrovascular disease
  • Head injuries sustained while under the influence of alcohol 
Alcohol Induced Dementia
To avoid having alcohol induced Dementia, it is crucial to stop drinking alcohol.

Types of Alcohol Induced Dementia and Their Symptoms 

The Alzheimer’s Society divides alcohol-related, or alcohol-induced Dementia into two main types:

  • Alcoholic Induced Dementia: This is an often fully or partially reversible form of Dementia that may lead to poor planning and organizational skills; problems with decision-making and judgment; impulsiveness and difficulty controlling emotions; attention and reasoning problems; lack of sensitivity to the feelings of others; and socially inappropriate behavior. This form of Dementia differs from Korsakoff syndrome in that not everyone affected has day-to-day memory loss.
  • Korsakoff Syndrome: While it’s the most well-known form of ARBD, Korsakoff syndrome is much less common than other forms of ARBD, such as alcohol induced Dementia. It often develops as part of a condition known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which encompasses two stages: Wernicke encephalopathy followed by Korsakoff syndrome. A thiamine deficiency causes it. 
    • Wernicke Encephalopathy: This condition often appears suddenly and needs immediate treatment. Symptoms may include confusion, balance, and movement issues; loss of coordination; vision problems like double vision, drooping eyelids, quick eye movements; a faster-than-normal heartbeat; low blood pressure when standing; a lack of energy; and fainting. If Wernicke’s encephalopathy isn’t treated quickly, it can lead to Korsakoff syndrome. Unfortunately, not everyone experiences an apparent episode of Wernicke encephalopathy before Korsakoff syndrome develops.
    • Korsakoff Syndrome: This condition tends to develop more slowly and is defined by short-term memory loss. Someone with Korsakoff syndrome might have a normal conversation and seem like themselves, only to forget the dialogue and the people involved moments later.

People with Korsakoff Syndrome may also demonstrate these symptoms:

  • Confabulation (the urge to make up stories or explanations while believing the invented information)
  • Some long-term memory gaps
  • Trouble putting words into context
  • Problems understanding or processing knowledge
  • Hallucinations

Medical Treatment

If Wernicke encephalopathy is suspected, a person must get immediate medical treatment, typically consisting of high doses of thiamine and other B vitamins injected slowly into a vein. With timely treatment, it can reverse most symptoms of this condition within a few days.

If Wernicke encephalopathy is left untreated or is not treated correctly or rapidly, some people may have permanent brain damage, and very severe cases can even lead to death.

alcohol induced Dementia
Alcoholism is treatable, and one of the main benefits of getting into treatment is to avoid or lessen the dangers of alcohol induced Dementia.

For all alcohol-related brain damage and alcohol induced Dementia cases, avoiding alcohol intake is a cornerstone of treatment and recovery.

The importance of getting into treatment that includes a medically-assisted detox is to alleviate withdrawal symptoms once you discontinued alcohol intake. These can include sweating, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, agitation, delirium, hallucinations, and seizures.

Your loved one will then also need treatment and support to stay away from alcohol which may include a stay in an addiction treatment rehabilitation facility, medications to reduce cravings for alcohol, and participation in self-help groups. Talk to your loved one’s doctor about treatment options and resources. 

We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. We work as an integrated team providing information about alcohol induced Dementia and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.


[1] NIAAA –