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Alcoholic Dementia And Alcohol Treatment

by Landmark Recovery

June 19, 2019

Alcohol use in the United States is a serious issue and can lead to a number of problems including liver cirrhosis, alcohol-related cancer, and alcoholic dementia. The most common form of alcoholic dementia is called Korsakoff syndrome. It is caused by excessive alcohol use and leads to symptoms dealing with memory loss.

Dementia is a serious mental disorder that affects a person’s cognitive abilities and can impact things like memory and judgement. Millions of people across the country suffer from all types of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease.

One less common form of dementia that still affects many around the globe is Korsakoff syndrome. The syndrome is caused by excessive alcohol use and leads to symptoms such as problems forming memories and problems recalling the distant past.

Overall, this issue, along with many other problems are associated with excessive alcohol use. Despite how prevalent alcohol is in our culture, there are many people suffering from actual issues related to the substance. Even more troubling is that only a small amount of people dealing with these problems actually get the treatment that they need.

Alcohol-Related Brain Damage

Alcoholic dementia is a form of alcohol-related brain damage. Alcohol-related brain damage occurs when people drink at much higher levels that the recommended limits of alcohol. Not only will these habits pose a major risk for someone’s health, it can also lead to someone becoming dependent on alcohol.

Alcohol intake at such high levels over several years directly damages the brain and can lead to brain damage for some.

Alcohol-related brain damage is defined as long-term decline in memory or thinking caused by excessive alcohol use. Regular heavy alcohol use over time causes damage in the nerve cells because alcohol is a toxin and can lead to chemical changes in the brain and even the shrinkage of brain tissue. Moreover, alcohol-related brain damage can lead to damaged blood vessels is linked to high blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels, and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

There are a number of different symptoms and conditions, the most common of which is alcoholic-induced dementia, such as Korsakoff’s syndrome.

Alcoholic Dementia and Korsakoff Syndrome

Alcohol dementia is a serious risk for people who overuse alcohol. It can lead to a number of symptoms that affect different parts of a person’s brain. Some of the common symptoms associated with people who are suffering from alcoholic dementia include:

  • Poor planning and organization skills
  • Problems with decision-making and judgement
  • Problems with maintaining attention
  • Slow reasoning
  • Lack of sensitivity

While alcoholic dementia is deemed a blanket term, there is, essentially only one major form of alcoholic dementia: Korsakoff syndrome. This form of dementia is associated with, like most other dementia’s, memory problems.

Korsakoff’s Syndrome

Korsakoff’s syndrome is the quintessential form of alcoholic dementia. Korsakoff syndrome is a chronic memory disorder caused by the deficiency of thiamine, or vitamin B-1. This syndrome is commonly associated and caused by alcohol misuse. However, there are other conditions that can cause the problem. For example, problems like AIDS, cancers, chronic infections, poor nutrition, and other conditions. The syndrome can also affect people whose bodies do not absorb food properly.

The deficiency of thiamine in the body is what causes Korsakoff Syndrome. Thiamine is used in the body by helping brain cells produce energy from sugar. When levels of thiamine fall too low in the body, the brain cannot generate enough energy to function properly.

As mentioned before, alcohol use is a major contributing factor to this. However, heavy drinking can lead to a number of other thinking changes and cognitive decline issues. Alcohol misuse can lead to brain damage through:

  • Toxic effects on brain cells
  • Stress of repeated intoxication and withdrawal
  • Alcohol-related diseases that affect the brain

Wernicke encephalopathy is a related disorder that often precedes Korsakoff syndrome. It is considered a medical emergency. If left untreated, it can cause death in up to 20 percent of cases and progresses to Korsakoff syndrome in 85 percent of survivors. Data suggests that about 25 percent of those who develop Korsakoff syndrome eventually recover, about have improve but don’t fully recover, and about 25 percent remain unchanged.


Korsakoff syndrome causes many problems with learning new information and can impede a person’s ability to remember recent events and can cause long-term memory gaps. Memory problems can be incredibly severe while other cognitive functions such as social skills may be unaffected.

The syndrome can get to the point where patients begin to make up information that they can’t remember on their own. However, this doesn’t quite mean they are lying, some of these people may even believe these fabricated situations.


Some recommend that heavy drinkers and others who are at risk of thiamine deficiency should take oral supplements of thiamine and other vitamins under doctor’s supervision.

It is recommended that anyone with a history of heavy alcohol use who experiences symptoms associated with Korsakoff syndrome attempts to reduce alcohol intake or stop altogether.

Alcohol Treatment

Obviously, alcohol is the biggest contributing factors of alcoholic dementia and Korsakoff’s syndrome. Unfortunately, alcohol use is a big problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 15 million adults in the country have alcohol use disorder and there are an estimated 88,000 annual alcohol-related deaths each year. Moreover, less than seven percent of those who identified as having alcohol use disorder received treatment for their problem.

For some many know that they’re alcohol use may be a problem but don’t know what exactly to do to stop it. However, there are a number of resources available to you to help find a drug and alcohol treatment center to help overcome your issues.


If you are looking into alcohol treatment for yourself or your loved one, you may be wondering if this type of treatment is even worth it and can be effective. But rest assured, no matter how severe the problem may feel, most people with an alcohol use disorder can benefit from some form of treatment. Research from the NIAAA, indicates that about one-third of people who are treated for alcohol problems have no further symptoms one year following treatment.


Detoxification is immensely important for those with alcohol use problems who are working to get sober. Alcohol withdrawals are problematic and can even be life-threatening if the issue is severe enough. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually occur within eight hours of a person’s last drink and generally last for a few days before subsiding. Some of the common symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawals include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heart rate

Severe alcohol withdrawals can lead to even more issues such as agitation, fever, seizures, severe confusion, hallucinations, and more.

Behavioral Treatment

Following detoxification, people with an alcohol and drug treatment center will be exposed to a number of behavioral therapies to help patients learn more addiction and the triggers that can lead a someone to turning back to drugs or the bottle. There are many forms of behavioral therapy, both in a individual and group settings.

One of the most common forms of behavioral therapy that is implemented in many treatment centers is cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy generally takes place one-on-one with a therapist. This form of therapy is focused on identifying the feelings and situations that can lead to heavy drinking or drug use. These sessions will work to manage the stress associated with these triggers and change the thought processes that lead to excessive drinking and drug use.

Overall alcohol treatment is something that should prioritized for anyone that is dealing with some sort of alcohol use disorder. Excessive alcohol use is a major problem and is something that affects nearly every organ in the body. For instance, alcohol use can lead to issues such as liver cirrhosis, kidney problems, and an increased risk of multiple different types of cancer, all of which can prove to be life-threatening.

Other Types of Dementia

Dementia is one of the most deadly problems in the country. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, dementia ranked as the sixth highest cause of death in the country and leads to over 115,000 deaths annually in the United States. Learning more about the different types of dementia can help you identify them when someone begins to show signs.

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body dementia is a progressive form of dementia that leads to a decline in thinking, reasoning due to damage in brain cells over time. Lewy body dementia the third most common form of the illness behind only Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. In fact, Lewy body dementia accounts for 5 to 10 percent of dementia cases.

Many people with Lewy body dementia develop movement and motor problems such as problems walking, a hunched posture, and more. Other common symptoms that occur from this type of dementia includes:

  • Changes with judgement and thinking
  • Delusions
  • Sleep problems
  • Mild Confusion
  • Trouble processing visual information

The causes of Lewy body dementia are still relatively unknown. Most people with Lewy body dementia are not found with a family history of the problem.

Like all forms of dementia, there are no current treatments available that can stop or slow the brain damage caused by this type of dementia dementia. Current treatment strategies just focus on helping patients overcome and deal with symptoms. There are a number of medications available that can help with the symptoms.

Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is another progressive brain disorder that affects many across the globe. It causes changes in certain areas of the brain that affect movement, mood, and thinking skills, all caused by a defective gene on one of the chromosomes in a person’s DNA.

Unfortunately, this disease is one that gets passed down through genetics. Anyone who inherits it from a parent will eventually develop the disease and deal with the symptoms associated with it.

Symptoms associated with Huntington’s disease usually develops between the ages of 30 and 50 but can appear in anyone from ages 2 to 80. Some of the common symptoms associated with the disease include uncontrolled movement of many parts of the body. It also will likely lead to a decline in cognitive skills and affect processes like memory, concentration, judgement, and more.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is a form of a brain disorder known as prion diseases and is the most common form of this disorder.

Prion diseases like this one occur in the prion protein, which is one of the many proteins found throughout the body. In this disease the protein will fold into an abnormal three-dimensional shape. The protein will then destroy brain cells. The damage that results from this causes a decline in many functions int he brain and body and can affect cognitive function processes such as thinking and reasoning. It can also eventually lead to issues such as involuntary muscle movements, confusion, difficulty walking, and mood changes.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease causes a type of dementia in the body that gets worse rapidly. Meanwhile, other common forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s and Lewy body dementia typically progress more slowly.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is rare and only affects about one in one million people across the globe.

Now What?

Dementia is a problem that millions across the country suffer from. It is something that impacts memory and judgement and can interfere with a person’s ability to perform day-to-day tasks. And some forms of this problems, such as Korsakoff syndrome and alcoholic dementia are directly related to alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol use can lead to a long list of mental and physical problems. If an alcohol use disorder is not taken seriously it can lead to life-threatening issues. Luckily, treatment is always an option and can be effective in helping someone achieve long-term sobriety.

Landmark Recovery is one Indiana treatment center that can offer patients a path toward recovery. Landmark provides patients with detoxification, inpatient treatment characterized by behavioral therapy, and a discharge plan to help them adjust to life after rehab. If you or a loved one is interested in learning more about what Landmark can offer in terms of an individualized treatment plan, please visit our website and reach out to our admissions team today.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.