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What Is Alcoholic Dementia?

Long-term alcohol use causes changes in how our brains function. For instance, some people can develop an addiction to alcohol. Other people can be at risk for alcoholic dementia and related conditions. When you or someone you care about has an alcohol use disorder, it is essential to seek treatment. 

What is Dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, but there are many types of dementia. Common symptoms include confusion, difficulty communicating, and changes in behavior.

What is Alcoholic Dementia? 

Alcoholic dementia is a type of dementia caused by chronic and heavy alcohol use. It is characterized by cognitive impairment, memory loss, difficulty with coordination and balance, confusion, and personality changes. Heavy drinking over a long period can damage the brain’s cells, leading to these impairments.

Is It Possible to Reverse the Effects of Alcohol Dementia?

In some cases, alcoholic dementia is reversible if the person stops drinking and receives appropriate treatment. However, depending on how long the person has drunk alcohol and the amount they consumed, the damage done to the brain due to chronic heavy drinking cannot always be reversed.

What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Dementia?

The symptoms of alcoholic dementia vary from person to person, but common symptoms include cognitive impairment, memory loss, difficulty with coordination and balance, confusion, and personality changes. Other signs may include disorientation or difficulty understanding language.

These symptoms can be further compounded by the symptoms of alcohol use disorder, including: 

  • Intense cravings for alcohol
  • Loss of control over drinking
  • Depression and anxiety when not drinking
  • Neglecting responsibilities due to drinking
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, sweating, nausea, rapid heartbeat, and hallucinations when trying to quit or reduce intake
  • Making risky decisions while under the influence of alcohol
  • Continued alcohol use despite the negative consequences of drinking

What Are the Different Stages of Alcoholic Dementia?

There are three different stages of alcoholic dementia: Early Stage, Mid-Stage, and End Stage. 

Early Stage

Early-stage alcohol dementia can include slight memory loss, difficulty with coordination, confusion, disorientation, and difficulty understanding language. It is essential to recognize these symptoms as signs of a potential problem since early intervention can help reduce the severity of the condition over time.


The mid-stage of alcohol dementia is characterized by more severe cognitive impairments, including impaired judgment, lack of insight into one’s behaviors, increased mood swings, and difficulty with basic activities such as dressing oneself or brushing teeth without assistance from someone else. Hallucinations may also begin to appear at this point.

End Stage

End-stage alcohol dementia is characterized by extreme memory loss and difficulty with basic activities without assistance from someone else. Other symptoms may include confusion, disorientation, difficulty understanding language, impaired judgment, hallucinations, and the inability to control one’s behavior.

How is Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome Related to Alcoholic Dementia?

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS) is a neurological disorder caused by thiamine deficiency and is related to alcohol dementia. WKS results from a lack of thiamine, or vitamin B1, which can occur in heavy drinkers due to their poor nutrition. Symptoms of WKS include confusion, inability to concentrate, and memory loss. Therefore, those with alcohol dementia need to receive adequate amounts of thiamine to prevent the development of WKS.

How is Alzheimer’s Related to Alcohol Dementia?

Chronic and heavy drinking over an extended time can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Alcohol consumption has also been linked to an increased risk for several other types of dementia, including vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia.

How is Alcohol Dementia Treated?

All stages of alcoholic dementia require alcohol detox and addiction treatment to help the individual discontinue alcohol use and abstain from drinking. Treatment programs can include using various medications to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms as well as discourage drinking. 

In addition, other medications can be prescribed to help improve cognitive functioning. It is crucial for the person to receive psychosocial support to manage their symptoms and maintain a safe environment. 

Other treatments may include occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language therapy, nutritional counseling, and lifestyle changes. Mid-stage treatment can also include cognitive rehabilitation. End-stage treatment can also include cognitive rehab and palliative care.

What If a Person with Alcoholic Dementia Does Not Want to Stop Drinking or Want Help?

If someone with alcoholic dementia does not want to stop drinking or receive help, it is important to be understanding and supportive. It can be difficult for someone struggling with addiction to admit they need help. It can take time for them to accept that they have an issue. Providing resources such as support groups, rehabilitation programs, and counseling services may help the individual get the treatment they need.

Alcohol Detox and Addiction Treatment in Columbus, OH

At Ohio Addiction Recovery Center in Columbus, OH, we offer customizable detox and treatment programs for alcoholic dementia in a supportive, caring, and safe environment. We can also provide you with resources and support if your loved one refuses to get help. Please feel free to contact us today and speak with one of our addiction treatment specialists to begin your recovery.

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