Controversial Diagnosis: Alcohol Related Dementia

By Pamela D. Wilson, CSA, MS, BS/BA, CG

The relationship between alcohol and a diagnosis of dementia remains somewhat a conundrum. While research has been ongoing, there remains a gap in conclusive data reporting that long term excessive alcohol use alone results in dementia. Long term excessive alcohol use has been proven to result in cardiac disorders, strokes, nutritional deficits, liver, and digestive diseases.

Brain scans of individuals who participate in long term excessive alcohol consumption often confirm white matter loss in the frontal lobe of the brain making it difficult for the brain to evaluate and store information in memory. White matter supports brain function through communication between nerves. When no other cause for dementia can be identified, individuals with long term excessive alcohol consumption may be diagnosed with alcohol related dementia also called ARD.

What is known is that excessive alcohol use negatively affects the brain’s response to physical function and response time. Individuals with high blood alcohol content have difficulty walking a straight line or safely driving a vehicle. Speech becomes slurred and behaviors irregular. Blackouts occur resulting in an individual’s total loss of memory about a certain event or events.

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