Six Facts About Alcohol and Memory Loss

Alcohol and memory loss have, for many years, had a connection. But what exactly is the connection? Does alcohol cause long term memory loss? What happens to memory during a black out? There are many effects that alcohol abuse can have on memory. Alcohol is a socially acceptable form of intoxication, so it is found at almost every party and event that you may attend, making it one of the most dangerous intoxicants out there. Understanding the full spectrum of the effects alcohol has on memory can persuade you to get help in order to prevent further damage. It can also help begin the recovery from some of the damage that may already be caused. 

Can Alcohol Affect Your Memory?

The short answer is yes, alcohol and memory loss are correlated in a way that alcohol abuse can lead to memory loss. Chronic alcohol abuse has many negative effects on the body overall, but it can impair memory tremendously. Whether long or short term memory, chronically using excessive amounts of alcohol can cause loss of memory, and prevent new ones from forming. Alcohol has both long and short term effects on memory. While the short-term effects tend to reverse as the alcohol leaves the system, the longer term effects of alcoholism are far more prevalent. 

Facts About Alcohol and Memory Loss

There are many myths about the effects of alcohol abuse floating around. With that being so common, knowing the facts on alcohol and memory loss is just as important and debunking some of those myths. The brain is a complex organ, and when it is damaged due to alcohol or other injury, it can be extremely difficult to reverse the effects the damage may cause. Stopping it before it starts, or catching it early on is the best way to ensure a better outcome.

Effects on Gray and White Matter

When neurons die, gray matter decreases in the brain. Gray matter is what makes up the outer layer of the brain. Neural cell bodies, and nerve synapses are located within it. Gray matter is vital to brain functionality, and naturally decreases over time and with age. However, there is some data showing that chronic alcohol abuse leads to early decreases in gray matter in the brain.

The connection between alcohol and memory loss is seen in the fact that with long term abuse, those suffering with alcoholism tend to show a decrease in both gray and white matter in the brain. White matter is essential to communication between the areas of the brain. Lack of white matter leads to lack of cognitive function.

Brain Cells

Alcohol is a neurotoxin. It can and does affect the communication within the cells, and disrupts the functionality of these brain cells, affecting balance, speech, and memory. There is no known safe level of drinking, all levels can affect the motor and cognitive functionality of the person consuming the alcohol.


Alcohol and memory loss can be linked through blackouts as well. There are two types of blackouts. Fragmented blackouts, also known as brown or greyouts, allow the brain to recall some of the events that may have occurred. There are some lapses in these memories, but the ability to recall or be reminded of some of the time is there. Whereas total blackouts are just that. There is no memory or recollection of the events that took place. 

Alcohol Related Brain Damage (ARBD)

Long term, excessive drinking that leads to persistent blackouts can lead to what is known as alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD). ARBD can cause some long term or even permanent problems with cognition, memory, and learning. Some symptoms that may be indicative of ARBD:

  • Poor decision making skills
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty processing and learning new things
  • Depression, anger, or irritability
  • Poor balance
  • Poor judgement
  • Poor attention and concentration skills

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

This is caused by a lack of thiamine in the brain. This is caused by long term abuse of alcohol and memory loss is a symptom. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome’s main symptoms are difficulty or inability to process new information or form new memories, as well as difficulty recalling old memories. 


The loss of the brain’s gray and white matter can lead to symptoms of dementia. The brain damage that could result from long term alcohol abuse can make someone more susceptible to developing dementia in the future. Another connection between alcohol and memory loss, dementia is a disorder characterized by complete loss of memory.

Is Reversing Alcohol Induced Memory Loss Possible?

Yes. There is a possibility of both ending the abuse of alcohol and memory loss reversing. However, receiving the proper care and treatment is highly recommended to achieve the best results. And the proper care begins with a medically supervised detox.

Treatment for Alcoholism in South Florida

Alcoholism is incurable. However, you can get help, and live a happy, healthy, and free life. You can begin building a new life, free of addiction to alcohol. At Ambrosia, we offer a continuum of care catered to your needs, and we strive to help you begin achieving goals that you never thought you had. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol abuse, help is just a single phone call away. Contact us today and start living the life you were destined to live.

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