Alcohol and Alzheimer’s

Many Americans use alcohol to relax, loosen up or relieve social anxiety while overlooking how dangerous it can be. Routine drinking carries a risk of addiction and can also cause organ damage, including to your brain. As we observe Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, here’s what you need to know about the link between alcohol and Alzheimer’s disease.

What Is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, incurable form of dementia that changes people’s memories, thoughts and behaviors. In the early stages of the disease, memory loss is mild, but sadly, people with late-stage Alzheimer’s eventually lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond appropriately to their environment.

As you age, your brain will change, possibly leading to occasional forgetfulness and slowed thought processes. However, as Alzheimer’s disease advances, it leads to increasingly severe symptoms, including:

  • Disorientation
  • Mood changes
  • Confusion about times, places and events
  • Paranoia and distrust of family, friends and caregivers
  • Difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking

Alcohol-Related Brain Damage

One way alcohol causes brain damage is by reducing the size of the hippocampus, the area responsible for learning and memory. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption will significantly increase your risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Long-term alcohol use can also lead to a vitamin B1 deficiency, mostly due to a combination of poor nutritional choices and digestive system inflammation. A lack of this essential vitamin may cause a condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, also known as “wet brain.” This ailment consists of two separate, intersecting disorders.

  • Wernicke encephalopathy is an acute phase whose symptoms include confusion, discoordination and eye abnormalities. Sometimes, early intervention can stabilize this condition, including taking injections of high-dose thiamine supplements.
  • Korsakoff syndrome, also known as alcoholic dementia, is a long-lasting or permanent illness associated with memory loss or the inability to retain new information. Key characteristics of Korsakoff syndrome include amnesia, hallucinations, behavioral changes and confabulation, or creating false memories.

Start Your Recovery Journey at Cumberland Heights

When alcohol is part of your daily routine and you rely on it to function, it can be difficult to stay sober, no matter how motivated or committed you are. That’s because addiction’s chronic, self-perpetuating nature makes you want to continue drinking, even when you know you might end up with irreversible brain damage, memory loss, personality changes and other severe health problems.

Starting a substance-free lifestyle will require you to identify and address the underlying cause of your disease with a full continuum of care, starting with comfortable, medically supervised detoxification. At Cumberland Heights, we offer comprehensive care that simultaneously treats addiction and any co-occurring mental health issues you are struggling with. If you are ready to learn more about how 12-step immersion can help you recover from an addiction to alcohol or other drugs, please reach out to our team today.