Alcohol-Induced Dementia – Symptoms and Treatment

AlcoholRegularly drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over a long period of time may lead to alcohol-induced dementia. It may be called many names and take on many forms.

More broadly, it may be referred to as alcohol-related brain damage, which includes other related disorders. An editorial in the British Journal of Psychiatry called it a 21st century “silent epidemic.”

Research from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism questions whether there is a link between excessive alcohol use and Alzheimer’s disease. While unproven, it appears that excessive alcohol can lead to Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. Unlike other forms of dementia, alcohol-induced dementia often disappears when the person has stopped drinking for a period of time.

Those showing alcohol-related dementia may exhibit:

  • Poor planning and organizational skills
  • Difficulty in decision-making and judgement
  • Being impulsive or difficulty in controlling emotions
  • Slower reasoning and shorter attention spans
  • Lack of sensitivity to the feelings of others
  • Socially inappropriate behavior

It is unclear whether alcohol-related dementia is a result of toxicity, or whether the dementia represents an underlying disorder. Many alcoholics, for instance, have a deficiency in the B-vitamin thiamine. Alcohol-induced dementia is more likely to appear in the 40s or 50s—a much younger onset than other types of dementia.

To diagnosis this disorder, the person must stop drinking alcohol for several weeks. A brain scan also may be ordered to rule out any other causes of symptoms. The scan may show a shrinking of the cerebellum, which supports the theory that the dementia is related to alcohol use, not another form of dementia.

A person struggling with alcohol-induced dementia will need support from family and friends to undergo the lifestyle changes needed. They may need assistance in breaking down complex tasks into smaller, easier-to-follow steps. They may need frequent reminders since short-term memory is lacking. And they will need support to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating right and getting plenty of sleep.

If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from alcohol-induced dementia, contact your health professional or Haven Behavioral Hospital of Albuquerque at 505-375-4669 for assistance.

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Alzheimer’s Association
Alzheimer’s Society (UK)
The British Journal of Psychiatry
Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism

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