Drinking Alcohol Causes Brain Damage

Can Alcohol Cause Brain Damage? Difficulty walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reaction times, impaired memory: Clearly, drinking alcohol causes brain damage. Some of these impairments are detectable after only one or two drinks and quickly resolve when drinking stops. On the other hand, a person who drinks heavily over a long period of time […]

Can Alcohol Cause Brain Damage?

Difficulty walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reaction times, impaired memory: Clearly, drinking alcohol causes brain damage. Some of these impairments are detectable after only one or two drinks and quickly resolve when drinking stops. On the other hand, a person who drinks heavily over a long period of time may have brain deficits that persist well after he or she achieves sobriety. Exactly how drinking alcohol causes brain damage and the likelihood of reversing the impact of heavy drinking on the brain remain hot topics in alcohol research today.

We do know that heavy drinking may have extensive and far-reaching effects on the brain, ranging from simple “slips” in memory to permanent and debilitating conditions that require lifetime custodial care. And even moderate drinking leads to short–term impairment, as shown by extensive research on the impact of drinking on driving.

A number of factors influence how and to what extent drinking alcohol causes brain damage (1), including:

  • how much and how often a person drinks;
  • the age at which he or she first began drinking, and how long he or she has been drinking;
  • the person’s age, level of education, gender, genetic background, and family history of alcoholism;
  • whether he or she is at risk as a result of prenatal alcohol exposure; and
  • his or her general health status.
Drinking Alcohol Causes Brain Damage
Drinking alcohol causes brain damage, without intervention, the brain can be permanently impaired by chronic alcohol use.

Alcohol-Related Brain Damage (ARBD)

Alcohol-related brain damage is associated with changes in cognition (memory and thinking abilities), difficulties with balance and coordination, and a range of medical and neurological disorders. Some alcohol-related disorders [2] include:

  • Cerebellar Atrophy – The cerebellum is the part of the brain responsible for muscle coordination. Damage results in difficulties with balance and walking, which is called ‘ataxia’.
  • Frontal Lobe Dysfunction – The brain’s frontal lobes are involved in abstract thinking, planning, problem-solving, and emotion. Damage results in cognitive (thought) difficulties.
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy – Drinking alcohol causes brain damage and many people with alcohol-related liver disease develop particular psychiatric symptoms, such as mood changes, confusion, and hallucinations.
  • Wernicke’s Encephalopathy – This is a disorder caused by a severe deficiency of vitamin B1. Some of the symptoms include ataxia, confusion, and problems with vision.
  • Korsakoff’s Amnesic Syndrome – This includes a loss of short-term memory, an inability to acquire new information, and ‘confabulation’ (the person fills in gaps in their memory with fabrications that they believe to be true).
  • Peripheral Neuropathy – The body’s extremities are affected by numbness, pain, and pins and needles.

How Does Alcohol Affect The Brain

People who have been drinking large amounts of alcohol for long periods of time run the risk of developing serious and persistent changes in the brain. Drinking alcohol causes brain damage and the damage may be a result of the direct effects of alcohol on the brain or may result indirectly, from a poor general health status or from severe liver disease. For example, thiamine deficiency is a common occurrence in people with alcoholism and results from poor overall nutrition. 

Drinking alcohol causes brain damage but alcoholics are not all alike. They experience different degrees of impairment, and the disease has different origins for different people. Consequently, researchers have not found conclusive evidence that anyone variable is solely responsible for the brain deficits found in alcoholics. Characterizing what makes some alcoholics vulnerable to brain damage whereas others do not remain the subject of active research.

Drinking alcohol causes brain damage but the good news is that most alcoholics with cognitive impairment show at least some improvement in brain structure and functioning within a year of abstinence, though some people take much longer. Clinicians must consider a variety of treatment methods to help people stop drinking and to recover from alcohol-related brain impairments, and tailor these treatments to the individual patient.

Advanced technology will have an important role in developing these therapies. Clinicians can use brain–imaging techniques to monitor the course and success of treatment because imaging can reveal structural, functional, and biochemical changes in living patients over time. Promising new medications also are in the early stages of development, as researchers strive to design therapies that can help prevent alcohol’s harmful effects and promote the growth of new brain cells to take the place of those that have been damaged by alcohol.

Short-Term Effects Of Alcohol On The Brain

Even in the short term, drinking alcohol causes brain damage controlling cognitive and motor functions, causing them to slow down. Alcohol impairs memory, judgment, and coordination and disrupts sleep patterns. When used long-term, alcohol may cause permanent brain damage.

Long-Term Effects Of Alcohol On The Brain

Drinking alcohol causes brain damage and many long-term effects of alcohol use can cause permanent damage to the brain, as well as to various organs. With intervention, brain damage may be reversible. Alcohol’s long-term brain impacts include:

  • Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and can damage brain cells. Some of the most dangerous symptoms may include hallucinations and seizures. About 5 percent of those going through withdrawal will experience delirium tremens (DTs), the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal.
  • Damage to neurotransmitters slows communication between different areas of the brain and reduces energy levels.
  • Brain shrinkage is caused by a loss of gray matter, which contains cell bodies, and white matter, which controls cell pathways.
  • Cognitive impairment may affect verbalization, mental processing, memory, learning, concentration, and impulse control.
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is related to severe thiamine deficiency, resulting in alcohol-induced brain dysfunction. Symptoms of Wernicke may include confusion, disorientation, malnourishment, jerky eye movements, and poor balance. Drinking alcohol causes brain damage and Korsakoff’s symptoms are often related to memory problems, mood imbalances, and lack of judgment.
Drinking Alcohol Causes Brain Damage
Drinking alcohol causes brain damage, call We Level Up TX today for treatment options.

Wet Brain Alcoholism

Wet brain syndrome (Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome) is caused by nutritional deficiencies most commonly brought on by chronic heavy drinking. In order to properly function, the brain needs a certain amount of vitamin thiamine. Wernicke’s encephalopathy is a degenerative brain disorder caused by the lack of thiamine (vitamin B1). It may result from alcohol abuse, dietary deficiencies, prolonged vomiting, eating disorders, or the effects of chemotherapy. B1 deficiency causes damage to the brain’s thalamus and hypothalamus. [3]

Does Alcohol Kill Brain Cells?

Drinking alcohol causes brain damage but it is a myth that drinking kills brain cells. Instead, alcohol damages the brain in other ways, for instance, by damaging the ends of neurons. This can make it difficult for those neurons to send important nerve signals. Alcohol may also damage the brain by increasing the risk of strokes, head injuries, and accidents.

Alcohol Blackout

Drinking alcohol causes brain damage and alcohol can produce detectable impairments in memory after only a few drinks and, as the number of alcohol increases, so does the degree of impairment. Large quantities of alcohol, especially when consumed quickly and on an empty stomach, can produce an alcohol blackout, or an interval of time for which the intoxicated person cannot recall key details of events or even entire events.

Drinkers who experience blackouts typically drink too much and too quickly, which causes their blood alcohol levels to rise very rapidly. College students may be at particular risk for experiencing a blackout, as an alarming number of college students engage in binge drinking. Binge drinking, for a typical adult, is defined as consuming five or more drinks in about 2 hours for men, or four or more drinks for women.

Alcohol Treatment

We Level Up TX addiction treatment provides the needs of each patient that are specific and personalized, as we aim to provide comprehensive support for mental health, addiction, and dual diagnosis treatment.


Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of depression including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – It is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression. 
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – It is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Person-Centered Therapy – It is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.
Drinking Alcohol Causes Brain Damage
Clearing alcohol from the body and overcoming alcohol withdrawal symptoms is the goal of detox.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers Texas

Drinking alcohol causes brain damage and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Medication-Assisted Treatment Inpatient Rehab Texas

Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use disorders and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

Alcohol Detox In Texas Inpatient Rehab

The first step in alcohol use disorder treatment is alcohol detox. It will help you navigate the complicated withdrawal process, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug abuse. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of withdrawals.

How We Can Help? Searched for “inpatient alcohol rehab Texas” or are you seeking a national inpatient rehab destination?

Drinking alcohol causes brain damage and if you or a loved one are struggling with alcoholism and a co-occurring mental health condition such as anxiety and depression, contact one of our helpful treatment specialists today. We Level Up TX can provide information on dual diagnosis and detox programs that may fit your specific needs.

Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. We will help you explore alcoholism treatment options.  Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.


[1] ALCOHOL’S DAMAGING EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Publications Distribution Center
[2] Alcohol-related brain impairment – https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/alcohol-related-brain-impairment
[3] Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome – National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke