What is Alcohol-Related Dementia?


Excessive consumption of alcohol over a long period of time would create a grave risk for anyone of any age or health status. Not only does it make you regret it the next day with a killer hangover, but long-term abuse of alcohol can lead to chronic diseases and other health issues such as liver disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, digestive problems, and countless more (CDC, 2021). The connection between alcohol and these health problems has been studied by researchers since the last century, but alcohol-related dementia (ARD) has scientists interested in links between alcohol and dementia, along with the connection to Korsakoff’s Syndrome. (Alzheimer’s Association, n.d.). 

As dementia is not a specific disease but more of a collective term for impairment of the mind, (thinking, memory, function in daily life), alcohol-related dementia is defined as brain damage acquired from long-term excessive drinking (Alzheimer’s Society, n.d.) This impairment does not have strict parameters but can involve problems in regular daily life, such as difficulty solving problems, memory lapses, and impaired judgment. 

Measuring and calculating alcohol abuse is not black and white, but knowing when to get help and seek treatment is crucial in combating and avoiding alcohol-related dementia. An occasional cocktail at a party or special occasion can be fine, as moderation is the most important factor, but an excess would be a cause for concern for multiple health problems. “Heavy drinking” is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as consuming “eight or more drinks per week” for women and “fifteen or more drinks per week” for men (CDC, 2021). And just as being under the influence can cause a person to lose balance and maybe cause falls due to unsteady feet, alcoholic dementia can bring about a more serious, continual loss of coordination (Alzheimer’s Society, n.d.). The damage to your liver alone should be enough of a deterrent to try and avoid regular excessive drinking, but as there is more research on the mental decline that could be associated with years of abuse, alcohol-related dementia has been brought to people’s attention. 

Conversely, a syndrome of alcohol-related dementia is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Alcohol does not directly cause the syndrome. However, it is correlated because of the brain damage that occurs due to a deficiency of vitamin B1, or thiamine (VeryWell Mind, n.d.). With a deficiency of vitamin B1, “brain cells do not produce enough energy to function properly,” and so the syndrome commonly afflicts chronic alcoholics who tend to have a deficiency in thiamine due to a poor diet (VeryWell Mind, n.d.). 

The most tragic part of the afflictions of alcohol-related dementia is that in some cases it is preventable and treatable. Alcoholism is a serious disorder just like any other, and to see someone wither away from such a devastating ordeal is difficult, especially as much more research needs to be done to get a complete picture of the effects of this specific type of dementia. Getting help in combating alcoholism and becoming sober is the first step in preventing an otherwise dire predicament. 

 

References

“Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. Learn the Facts | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Feb. 2021.

“Korsakoff Syndrome | Symptoms & Treatments | Alz.Org.” Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, Alzheimer’s Association.

“Alcohol-Related ‘Dementia’ | Alzheimer’s Society.” Alzheimer’s Society, https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/types-dementia/alcohol-related-dementia. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021. 

“An Overview of Alcoholic Dementia.” Verywell Mind, https://www.verywellmind.com/alcohol-dementia-62980. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021.

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