Alcohol Memory Loss


Our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. While there are a few other possible causes of WKS, alcoholism is the number one reason because people who suffer from alcoholism tend to have poor diets which often prevents their bodies from properly absorbing vitamin B1. A fragmentary blackout is not as serious as an en-bloc; while people can still forget events, they do usually retain some memory.


But we all know that as blood alcohol content goes up, our judgment and coordination go down. Alcohol also affects a person’s ability to make memories but not in the same way that it affects other cognitive functions. Although binge drinking is a leading cause of blackouts, it’s also essential to consider the other hazards linked with this sort of alcohol abuse. An alcohol use disorder is a condition in which an individual uses alcohol despite harmful effects on their life.

How Alcohol Is Linked to Memory Loss

Blackouts are much more common among social drinkers than previously assumed and should be viewed as a potential consequence of acute intoxication regardless of age or whether the drinker is clinically dependent on alcohol . White and colleagues surveyed 772 college undergraduates about their experiences with blackouts and asked, “Have you ever awoken after a night of drinking not able to remember things that you did or places that you went? ” Of the students who had ever consumed alcohol, 51 percent reported blacking out at some point in their lives, and 40 percent reported experiencing a blackout in the year before the survey. Of those who reported drinking in the 2 weeks before the survey, 9.4 percent said they blacked out during that time.

When a person blacks out, he or she is essentially experiencing a type of amnesia. Blacking out can be very dangerous and put individuals at an increased risk of injury and even death. Call now to talk with a treatment specialist about your recovery options. It was long thought that the number of neurons in the adult brain was established early in life, but it is now known that the adult brain is capable of neurogenesis or the production of new neurons. The positive changes in white matter volume occurred at a fairly consistent pace throughout the seven and a half months of abstinence. You’re more likely to forget things if your home is cluttered or your notes are in disarray.

Figure 3Alcohol suppresses hippocampal pyramidal cell activity in an awake, freely behaving rat. Pyramidal cells often fire when the animal is in discrete regions of its environment, earning them the title “place–cells.” The specific areas of the environment where these cells fire are referred to as place–fields. The figure shows the activity of an individual pyramidal cell before alcohol administration , 45 to 60 minutes after alcohol administration, and 7 hours after alcohol administration (1.5 g/kg).

Though the benefits can vary widely from person to person, taking a month-long break from alcohol can do your body good. This research suggests that to protect your memory, drinking in moderation is the best policy . According to 2013 research, thiamine supplementation can help alleviate symptoms of WKS, which is caused by a thiamine deficiency. They have difficulty learning a new skill, such as playing a game. You’ve gotten in trouble with loved ones or the police when drinking, but you don’t fully remember what you did.


This may include appearing more withdrawn, frustrated, or even angry. Drinking too much alcohol can irritate the stomach lining, which affects how the stomach absorbs nutrients.

For example, alcoholic women develop cirrhosis , alcohol–induced damage of the heart muscle (i.e., cardiomyopathy) , and nerve damage (i.e., peripheral neuropathy) after fewer years of heavy drinking than do alcoholic men. Studies comparing men and women’s sensitivity to alcohol–induced brain damage, however, have not been as conclusive. Alcohol can produce detectable impairments in memory after only a few drinks and, as the amount of alcohol increases, so does the degree of impairment.

He stated, “It is important to note that all the blackout periods occurred after a rapid rise in blood alcohol level” (p. 622). The two subjects who did not black out, despite becoming extremely intoxicated, experienced slow increases in blood alcohol levels. Administering thiamine helps to improve brain function, especially in patients in the early stages of WKS.

journal of studies

Scientists don’t yet know exactly how renton, wa transitional housing, sober housing damages the brain. Research has shown that severe thiamine deficiency disrupts several biochemicals that play key roles in carrying signals among brain cells and in storing and retrieving memories. These disruptions destroy brain cells and cause widespread microscopic bleeding and scar tissue. Researchers have identified several genetic variations that may increase susceptibility to Korsakoff syndrome.


This deficiency can be caused by alcohol interrupting the body’s ability to absorb thiamine from the diet, leading to inadequate levels of the vitamin in the body. If you’re worried about memory loss, make an appointment with your health care provider. If memory loss affects your ability to do your daily activities, if you notice your memory getting worse, or if a family member or friend is concerned about your memory loss, it’s particularly important to get help. Researchers and physicians are still learning about mild cognitive impairment.

If you’re having difficulty concentrating, remembering recent events or keeping track of a conversation, you may be close to getting blackout drunk. If you’re in that situation, find someone you trust and find a safe ride home. People who are blacked out are likely to continue drinking because the substance jeopardizes their judgment.

  • Not drinking during pregnancy is the best form of prevention; FAS remains the leading preventable birth defect in the United States today.
  • In general, implantation of a new liver results in significant improvements in cognitive function in these patients and lowers their levels of ammonia and manganese .
  • Your doctor may suggest admitting you to a hospital or alcohol treatment facility to help.
  • Hopefully, future work will reveal more regarding the ways in which the effects of alcohol on multiple transmitter systems interact to disrupt memory formation.
  • During the first half of the 20th century, two theoretical hurdles hampered progress toward an understanding of the mechanisms underlying the effects of alcohol on memory.
  • When someone blacks out, it’s as if they have forgotten everything.

The toxin begins to slowly destroy the body over time if a person continues to drink a lot of alcohol for lengthy periods. Alcohol can severely impede a person’s mental and physical capabilities if not avoided. The more someone abuses alcohol, the more likely they will suffer from memory loss and other cognitive impairments. The short-term effects on your body from drinking alcohol dissipate as the toxin leaves the body.

Getting Help For Alcohol Use And Addiction

They are not “lying” but may actually believe their invented explanations. Scientists don’t yet understand the mechanism by which Korsakoff syndrome may cause confabulation. The P3 component is reduced in alcoholics compared with control subjects. The research showed a typically heavier drinker reported more than 30% more memory-related issues than someone who reportedly did not drink, and almost 25% more issues than those who stated they drank only small amounts of alcohol. Alcohol tends to affect short-term or prospective memory more often. Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals.

In addition to these considerations, older people also tend to take more medications than younger people. These medications can potentially interact with alcohol, which can worsen symptoms. Their metabolism also slows down, so the alcohol stays in their system for longer. Explore the website for information and resources on Alzheimer’s and related dementias from across the federal government. Report any products or supplements being advertised as a treatment for Alzheimer’s or other diseases on the U.S.

Be physically active every day

A pair of studies — one published in Psychological Medicine and the other in Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research — found that men and women both experienced brain shrinkage and memory problems after heavy alcohol consumption. The latter study found that women experienced the side effects after drinking only half as much as men. However, for those who do, these effects are typically caused by how alcohol affects the brain. Even moderate alcohol consumption can harm a person’s memory and reasoning ability.

While moderate drinking will not impair long-term memory, chronic alcohol abuse will harm or disrupt memory. White and Best administered several doses of alcohol in this study, ranging from 0.5 g/kg to 1.5 g/kg. (Only one of the experiments is represented in figure 3.) They found that the dose affected the degree of pyramidal cell suppression.

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