What is Alcohol-Induced Dementia?
Alcohol-induced dementia, as the name suggests, is a form of dementia-related to the excessive drinking of alcohol. Dementia is a general term for the loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking skills that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Excessive and continued alcohol use can lead to permanent damage to the structure and function of the brain. This is according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Moreover, individuals with alcohol-induced dementia have the potential to at least partially recover – both structurally and functionally – if abstinence from alcohol is maintained 
Continued and extreme alcohol use may lead to structural and functional brain damage, leading to alcohol-induced dementia. Studies have suggested that of all cases of dementia, alcohol-induced dementia accounts for approximately 10%. In addition, heavy alcohol use was a contributory factor in about 24% of cases of dementia . The same study suggests that individuals with alcohol-induced dementia typically have a younger age of onset than those with other forms of dementia, are more likely to be male, and often are socially isolated .
Over-consumption of alcohol can lead to heart disease, liver problems, cancers, and a weakened immune system, alcohol-induced dementia is one of the few. If a person has alcohol-induced dementia they will struggle with day-to-day tasks. This is because of the damage to their brain, caused by regularly drinking too much alcohol over many years. If you know or suspect your loved one drinks an excessive amount of alcohol, they may be showing signs of alcohol-induced or alcohol-related dementia. Learn more about the symptoms and their effects and importantly ask for support on how they can stay away from alcohol.
Symptoms of Alcohol-Induced Dementia
This can vary from person to person, but generally, symptoms will include:
- Impaired ability to learn things
- Personality changes
- Problems with memory
- Difficulty with clear and logical thinking on tasks which require planning, organizing, common sense judgement and social skills
- Problems with balance
- Decreased initiative and spontaneity
- Trouble with communicating, such as chronic word-finding difficulties or increased difficulty reading or understanding speech
- Cognitive problems that make daily life difficult. For example, a person might have trouble following a recipe
Signs of Alcohol-Induced Dementia
The signs of alcohol-induced dementia a person exhibits may vary depending on the type of alcohol dementia they have. Some common signs of alcohol-induced dementia include:
- Unexplained changes in personality or character
- Lying without realizing it
- Abnormal eye movement
- Decreased or abnormal reflexes
- Fabricating stories
- Memory loss
- Muscle weakness
- Problems with motor movement and coordination
- Loss of speech
- Difficulties learning
- Trouble with complex problem-solving
- Getting lost on familiar paths
- Difficulties completing simple tasks, like following a cooking recipe
- Confusion regarding the place or time the person is in
- Difficulties appropriately stringing sentences or words together
Types of Alcohol-Induced Dementia and Their Symptoms
The Alzheimer’s Society divides alcohol-related, or alcohol-induced, dementia into two main types:
- This type of dementia is often fully or partially reversible. Moreover, it may lead to:
- Poor planning and organizational skills
- Problems with decision-making and judgment
- Impulsiveness and difficulty controlling emotions
- Attention and reasoning problems
- Lack of sensitivity to the feelings of others
- Socially inappropriate behavior
This form of dementia differs from Korsakoff syndrome in that not everyone affected has day-to-day memory loss.
While it’s the most well-known form of alcohol-related brain damage( ARBD), Korsakoff syndrome is much less common than other forms of ARBD, such as alcoholic dementia. Moreover, it often develops as part of a condition known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which encompasses two stages: Wernicke encephalopathy followed by Korsakoff syndrome. A thiamine deficiency causes it.
This condition tends to develop more slowly and is defined by short-term memory loss. For example, someone with Korsakoff syndrome might have a normal conversation and seem like themselves, only to forget the conversation and the people involved moments later.
People with Korsakoff syndrome may also demonstrate these symptoms:
- Confabulation (the urge to make up stories or explanations while believing the invented information)
- Some long-term memory gaps
- Trouble putting words into context
- Problems understanding or processing information
This condition often appears suddenly and needs immediate treatment. Symptoms may include:
- Balance and movement issues
- Loss of coordination
- Vision problems like double vision
- Drooping eyelids or quick eye movements; a
- Faster-than-normal heartbeat
- Low blood pressure when standing
- Lack of energy
If Wernicke Encephalopathy isn’t treated quickly, it can lead to Korsakoff syndrome. Unfortunately, not everyone experiences a clear episode of Wernicke encephalopathy before Korsakoff syndrome develops.
Testing And Treatment For Alcohol-Induced Dementia
Several medical tests can be performed to help discover if a person has alcoholic dementia. For example, examining a person’s nervous and muscular system can help diagnose any nerve damage caused by alcoholic dementia. Many doctors will also conduct blood tests to test a person’s nutrition levels.
If alcoholic-induced dementia is detected and still in the early stages, treatment may make significant improvement. Stopping drinking is often the first step in treating this condition. In addition, thiamine may be given to improve eye movement and vision problems, confusion, and muscle coordination.
Improvements can take several weeks or months, and many people will remain in the hospital or treatment facility until their major symptoms wane.
Stopping now is the very best thing you can do to reduce the risk of long-term alcohol-induced health problems. Treatment options may include:
- Therapy to help you better manage your emotions and establish new coping skills
- Family counseling to help you make amends and get support from your family
- Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous
- Medical care to manage any health consequences of alcoholism
Alcohol Abuse Treatment for People with Alcohol Induced Dementia
Stop alcohol-induced dementia before it’s too late. Medical detox program followed by a comprehensive alcohol rehab program can manage alcoholism and help a person get sober and stay that way. In addition, many alcohol rehab programs help manage co-occurring disorders, such as alcoholic dementia. A program that caters to co-occurring conditions ensures that alcoholism is being treated and any other medical or mental health issues. Medical, mental health, and substance abuse providers all work together to form and carry out a treatment plan that helps manage all disorders simultaneously. For example, to diagnose alcohol-induced dementia, medical professionals will generally perform a few tests or exams to determine the severity and what can be done to treat and manage the symptoms.
Medically Assisted Detox
Usually, the first step in inpatient treatment is medically assisted detox. Doctors and addiction specialists monitor clients’ vital signs while alcohol exit the system. Depending on the type of substance a person is detoxing from, withdrawal symptoms may differ.
Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Moreover, constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medicine and medical expertise to lessen cravings and withdrawals.
Offering medication, in addition to other treatment such as therapy, peer support programs, is critical. However, these treatment options should be offered and not forced, as patients should be engaged in their own treatment planning and decision-making process. Moreover, the three FDA-approved agents for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) are naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram. However, these drugs are prescribed sparingly and with close supervision because of the risk for abuse and addiction.
Because individuals who suffer from this condition often suffer from nutritional deficiencies, doctors may consult with nutritionists and recommend a specific diet. In addition, nutrition therapy, including the use of supplementation and special diets.
Integrated Mental Health Care
Alcohol affects mental health, so people may use it to self-medicate undiagnosed disorders. Rehab centers typically provide mental health screenings, diagnoses, and integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders. In addition, holistic and therapeutic approaches are often used to treat recovering addicts with these conditions.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) can improve addicts’ behavior. CBT targets negative and maladaptive thought patterns as it promotes positive emotions and beliefs, while DBT helps clients address conflicting impulses so they can make healthy choices. Both therapies treat substance abuse, anxiety disorders, and other mood issues. Therapy also empowers clients to identify, avoid and mitigate cues that trigger drug cravings.
Individual and Group Counseling
Addiction and mental health counseling occur in both individual and group settings. One-on-one treatment sessions may address unresolved trauma, unconscious conflicts, and specific struggles, while group sessions often involve training in life skills, stress management, conflict resolution, and social connections. Group counseling also gives clients the chance to share their thoughts and experiences to develop social support, which is essential for lasting recovery.
Find the Right Mental Health Treatment Plan at We Level Up Florida
During your rehabilitation, 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.
Please, do not try to detox on your own. The detox process can be painful and difficult without medical assistance. It’s hard enough that you are struggling with alcohol-induced dementia. If you or someone you know is struggling with this condition, it is important to intervene early.
Inpatient medical detox and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility at Level Up West Palm Beach Rehab. For some primary behavioral health treatment clients, medical detox and or addiction rehab may be required first. If you have a co-occurring severe substance abuse diagnosis, please contact us prior to beginning inpatient mental health therapy. Treatment services may vary. Please call us to learn which treatment options are most suited for your individual needs.