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Answers To The Question, “Can Alcohol Cause Memory Loss?”

Those who are concerned about their own or a loved one’s alcohol use may wonder if alcohol can lead to memory loss.

Alcohol can in fact lead to memory loss, over both the short-term and the long-term.

In some cases, memory loss may be mild and temporary, but in other cases, it can be severe and even permanent.

The risks of memory loss are higher among those who abuse alcohol or drink more than what is considered a moderate amount.

Those who begin to experience alcohol-related memory loss and find that they are unable to stop drinking may be in need of alcohol rehab to help them recover from the effects of alcoholism.

How Can Alcohol Cause Memory Loss Over The Short-Term?

As the National Institutes of Health explains, alcohol has negative effects on the brain, which can include lapses in memory, but the severity of these effects can vary based upon how much and how frequently a person consumes alcohol. Over the short-term, consuming just a few drinks can cause temporary memory impairment, which may be minor with moderate drinking.

With heavy drinking, a person may experience a blackout, during which they will not remember details of events, or they may entirely forget the events that transpired while in a blacked out state. Blackouts are one example of memory loss over the short-term. In a survey of college students, about half of those who were drinkers reported that they had blacked out at some point, which was defined as waking up after a night of drinking and being unable to remember what had happened the night before. If you drink large quantities of alcohol, you may not remember the things that happen while you are intoxicated. With short-term memory loss from alcohol, your memory returns once you become sober.

How Can Alcohol Cause Memory Loss Over The Long-Term?

While a single bout of heavy drinking can cause temporary memory loss in the form of a blackout, long-term alcohol abuse can lead to lasting memory impairment through alcohol-related brain damage. For example, an alcoholic who has been abusing alcohol for years may suffer from changes in the brain or nutritional deficiencies that ultimately result in brain damage.

When someone develops alcoholism, memory impairment can persist, even when a person is not under the influence of alcohol. In some cases, memory impairment can be mild, but for some alcoholics, memory loss leads to a total loss of functioning. As the National Institutes of Health explains, thiamine deficiency is common in cases of alcohol abuse. Thiamine deficiency harms the brain significantly and can lead to a brain disorder called Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome.

In the later stages of this syndrome, a person develops severe learning and memory problems, leading to difficulty remembering information from the past, in addition to trouble forming new memories. This means that an alcoholic with this condition may have a conversation and shortly after have no memory of the conversation.

How Much Does A Person Have To Drink To Experience Memory Loss?

While under the influence of alcohol, a person may have mild memory impairment, even after just a few drinks, but heavier drinking has a more significant effect on memory. Binge drinking, for instance, can lead to blackouts, during which a person loses memory of the details of events, or forgets them entirely.

While short-term memory loss like blackouts will subside once a person is no longer intoxicated, chronic alcohol abuse, or alcoholism, can lead to severe memory impairment and even chronic brain disorders that make it difficult to form new memories. The risk of serious memory loss from alcohol increases with heavy drinking, which the National Institutes of Health defines as more than four drinks a day for a man and more than three drinks a day for a woman.

Over time, repeated heavy drinking can lead to problems with alcohol, including significant memory loss. Heavy drinking is especially harmful when it occurs frequently, such as on a daily basis. In order to reduce the risks of negative effects like memory loss, experts recommend that men limit themselves to two drinks per day, while women should limit themselves to one alcoholic beverage per day. This level of drinking is considered moderate and is less likely to lead to alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

Risks of Long-Term Alcohol Abuse

It is also important to understand that heavy drinking can lead to alcoholism, or an alcohol addiction. When someone shows signs of being an alcoholic, a professional will diagnose an alcohol use disorder, the clinical term for an addiction to alcohol.

According to diagnostic criteria, signs of an alcohol use disorder include drinking larger amounts of alcohol than intended, experiencing strong alcohol cravings, and being unable to cut down on alcohol use. Someone who has an alcohol use disorder may also have difficulty keeping up with demands at work or home because of alcohol and may continue to drink, even when it causes new, or amplifies existing, health problems. For instance, someone who continues to drink despite serious memory problems may have an alcohol use disorder.

If this is the case, it is important to seek alcohol rehab. Since giving up alcohol can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, alcohol rehab often begins with a detox program, to keep patients as safe and as comfortable as possible as their bodies rid themselves of alcohol. After completing detox, a person with alcoholism will transition to an ongoing treatment program on either an inpatient or an outpatient basis to help them address the underlying issues that led to alcohol abuse.

Seeking Treatment for Alcohol Abuse in California

If you are asking, “Can alcohol cause memory loss?” chances are that you may be seeking alcohol rehab for yourself or for a loved one.

For those seeking treatment in the California area, Resurgence is located in Orange County and is happy to provide services to those in surrounding areas.

We offer both alcohol detox and alcohol rehab, including inpatient and outpatient programs.

Our inpatient alcohol rehab occurs in a homelike setting, where you will participate in group and individual counseling, educational sessions, and therapeutic activities like exercise, yoga, meditation, and spiritual outings.

If you are concerned about covering the costs of treatment, Resurgence California alcohol rehab offers a free insurance verification program.

Simply call us or visit our website and we will tell you what services your insurance plan covers and how much you can expect to pay our for treatment.

We also accept private payment options.

Reach out to Resurgence today to learn how we can help you to recover from the effects of alcoholism.

Sources:

1) https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm
2) https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking
3) https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-use-disorder

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