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The Connection Between Alcohol and Dementia

Alcohol is a substance known for its relaxing effects and is usually consumed in social gatherings. Despite its popularity, alcohol can cause critical side effects. Not only is alcohol addiction a dangerous disease on its own, but its consequences can also bring on other forms of health concerns. In recent years, the connection between alcohol and dementia has been further researched. People who develop an addiction to alcohol can begin their recovery at one of our Christian treatment centers.

What Is Alcohol Dementia?

Dementia itself is made up of a group of symptoms that can cause memory loss and negatively affect cognitive and social functioning. The term dementia acts as an umbrella that covers a variety of other diseases and medical conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia is a result of damage to brain cells, and this damage disrupts brain cells’ abilities to function properly.1 The connection between alcohol and dementia is believed to result from the harm alcohol can have on the brain.

Alcohol-related dementia is a form of dementia that results from the overconsumption of alcohol or alcoholism. Like the other branches of dementia, it affects memory, cognitive function, language, and other mental functions. Syndromes like Korsakoff’s Syndrome and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome often result from alcohol dementia. This form of dementia is thought to be caused by the toxicity of alcohol, as well as the nutritional complications it causes.

Is Korsakoff Syndrome Progressive?

Korsakoff's syndrome, also known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, is generally considered a non-progressive form of dementia. This means that the cognitive deficits associated with Korsakoff's syndrome do not worsen or progress over time in the same way that some other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, may progress.

As previously mentioned, chronic alcohol abuse is the main cause of Korsakoff's syndrome, which results in thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiencies. A thiamine deficiency can cause neurological damage because it is necessary for the brain to function properly. Wernicke's encephalopathy, an acute illness that can result in ataxia, confusion, and abnormalities in eye movement, is frequently linked to the syndrome.

While Korsakoff's syndrome itself may not progress, it is crucial to note that the underlying alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) can continue to worsen if alcohol consumption persists. Individuals with Korsakoff's syndrome may experience improvements in symptoms if thiamine supplementation is administered early in the course of the condition. However, if alcohol abuse persists, the overall brain damage may progress.

Signs of Alcohol Dementia

Alcohol dementia signs can vary in intensity depending on the amount of alcohol that the person consumes.

Common symptoms of alcohol dementia include:

  • Impaired cognitive abilities
  • Inability to retain information
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty with concentrating
  • Difficulty with thinking logically
  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Decrease in body temperature
  • Decrease in blood pressure
  • Muscle atrophy

Although language and gestures are unaffected, speaking and forming concise thoughts can be difficult as a result of dementia brought on by alcoholism. The overconsumption of alcohol can cause other symptoms and illnesses. Guidelines published in the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence advise people to stay away from alcohol to prevent diseases like dementia.2

What Is the Life Expectancy of Someone With Alcohol Dementia?

While there is no specific life expectancy for people with alcohol dementia, one study shows that the life expectancy for someone with Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is eight years for 50% of people who have this form of alcohol-related brain damage.3

The study involved 61 patients, including 51 with Wernicke's encephalopathy (WE) and 10 with Korsakoff's syndrome (KS). Among those with WE, 78% were men, and the average age at diagnosis was 57 years (with a range of 49-66 years). About 23% showed the classic WE triad. According to Caine's criteria for WE, 70.6% had at least two out of four signs or symptoms.3

Patients with WE were followed for a median of 5.3 years (with a range of 2.6-8.8 years). During this time, the cumulative mortality rate was 45%, and the death rate was 7.4 per 100 person-years (with a confidence interval of 4.8 to 10.9). On the whole, 50% of patients were expected to die within 8 years of the WE episode. The primary causes of death included serious bacterial infections (44.5%) and cancer (33.3%).3

Get Help for Alcohol Abuse

It’s important to recognize the strong link between alcohol and dementia, highlighting the need to address alcohol addiction promptly. Seeking help and treatment is essential in dealing with this complex issue.

Our Christian rehab in Florida provides a supportive and comprehensive approach to alcohol addiction treatment. Opting for the recovery journey not only enhances overall well-being but also plays a vital role in preventing and lessening cognitive issues linked to alcohol abuse.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, you don’t have to go through it alone. Do not hesitate to get help. Call us Faith in Recovery now at 888-280-4763 or contact us online to get started.


  1. ALZ- What is dementia?
  2. NICE- Dementia, disability and frailty in later life – mid-life approaches to delay or prevent onset
  3. National Library of Medicine - Long-Term Mortality of Patients with an Alcohol-Related Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome